USC speedy safety Taylor Mays is one of several prospects featured in Taking it to the House’s 2010 NFL Draft – Mock v1.0
Unlike many draft prognosticators who seem to just make their picks out of thin air, I like to wait until after the Senior Bowl, NFL Combine, and letting Free Agency play out before making my picks. In my opinion you cannot do a true “mock” until after these events, because only then you can get a good sense of how NFL talent evaluators are viewing prospects and have accurate team needs.
1) St. Louis Rams – QB Sam Bradford, Oklahoma
2009 Record: 1-15 | Needs: QB, CB, OLB, WR
In head coach Steve Spagnuolo’s first season, the Rams did take some positive steps. Unfortunately not many of the Rams’ moves in 2009 equated to wins. With an eye on building from the team’s young nucleus including DE Chris Long, OT Jason Smith, RB Steven Jackson, WR Donnie Avery and others, expect the Rams’ to hold onto and use the first overall pick. After flirting with the idea of selecting another D-lineman in the first round, Rams GM Bill Devaney will decide a franchise quarterback is needed. The Rams select Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford, making him the franchise’s first quarterback to be selected in the first round since 1967. The NCAA’s all-time leader in passing efficiency is an accurate, intelligent, and athletic passer plus he averaged an incredible 9.41 yards-per-attempt and a TD-to-INT ratio of 88-16 in his career. While there are some shoulder concerns, the former 2008 Heisman winner looks recovered from an October surgery and he weighed in at a solid 6’4, 236 at the NFL Combine. Look for under-achiever Marc Bulger to be cut and for the recently signed A.J. Feeley to give the rookie some training camp competition.
2) Detroit Lions – DT Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska
2009 Record: 2-14 | Needs: OT, DL, CB, S
After securing their franchise quarterback in the 2009 NFL Draft, Lions head coach Jim Schwartz and GM Martin Mayhew should probably be looking for a bodyguard for young quarterback Matthew Stafford. But the Lions also need to address a defense that allowed an NFL-high 494 points in 2009. The Lions will pick the best defensive player in the draft by selecting Suh with the second overall pick. Suh had one of the best years of any college defensive tackle in NCAA history as he produced 85 tackles, a NCAA leading 24 tackles for loss, 12 sacks, and 1 forced fumble. The decorated award-winner (Lombardi, Bednarik, Willis, and first team All American) also had 10 passes defensed, 28 QB hurries, 1 INT and three blocked kicks. The cat-quick and strong defensive lineman possibly played his best game in Nebraska’s near upset of the Texas in the Big 12 Championship game, finishing with 4.5 sacks. By adding Suh, the Lions defense will be able to apply the pressure needed to produce more sacks and turnovers.
3) Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Safety Eric Berry, Tennessee
2009 Record: 3-13 | Needs: S, WR, CB, DE
Bucs young head coach Raheem Morris’ defensive unit was plagued by big plays and coverage lapses throughout the 2009 season. With an eye on replacing aging veteran Rhonde Barber and getting a John Lynch type safety for his Cover-2 scheme, look for Morris to select Tennessee “complete” safety Eric Berry. Though his numbers were a bit down in ’09, Berry took his game to a new level working with former Volunteers defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, a veteran NFL teacher of the Cover-2 defense. The 2009 Jim Thorpe award winner as the nation’s best defensive back, Berry will definitely help in over the top coverage as well as in box. Expect the centerfielder to help in the nickel, dime, and on special teams as he has a “Can Do” attitude that will help the Bucs’ defense – ranked 32nd in the NFL against the run.
4) Washington Redskins – OT Russell Okung, Oklahoma State
2009 Record: 4-12 | Needs: OT, OG, S, QB
The Redskins have strong needs along on their offensive line as OT Chris Samuels retired and OG Randy Thomas was released. Redskins’ new braintrust of head coach Mike Shanahan and GM Bruce Allen will grab the 2010 NFL Draft’s first O-lineman by selecting big bookend tackle Russell Okung to protect returning quarterback Jason Campbell. The 2009 Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year and first-team All-American allowed just one sack and two QB pressures last year. Running behind Okung, Oklahoma State led the Big 12 in rushing in all four of his seasons as a starter. The former Oklahoma State star has good “pop” at the snap, good feet, and long arms. By selecting Okung and starting him Day 1, the Redskins will finally be able to fix an offensive line that was in shambles in 2009.
5) Kansas City Chiefs – OT Bryan Bulaga, Iowa
2009 Record: 4-12 | Needs: S, WR, LB, DL
After a slow season where the “Belichick” way took some time to work, head coach Todd Haley and general manager Scott Pioli will go into the 2010 NFL Draft looking to continue remolding the Chiefs. Much of the 2009 season was spent by Haley and Pioli sorting out who wanted to stay in KC and now they seem to have a solid nucleus with players like quarterback Matt Cassell, LB Mike Vrabel, and running back Jamaal Charles. Even so, Kansas City has many spots still to fill and one of them lies on the offensive line. With former first round pick Brandon Albert struggling on the outside, the Chiefs will select 2nd rated offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga from Iowa and move Albert back to his natural guard position. Though there is some concern over Bulaga (6’6/315) missing three games in 2009 due to a thyroid condition, he was the most dominant blocker in the Big Ten — named conference’s 2009 Offensive Lineman of the Year. This converted tight end has drawn comparisons to Browns former first rounder and Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas for his good feet and pass-blocking technique.
6) Seattle Seahawks – DT Gerald McCoy, Oklahoma
2009 Record: 5-11 | Needs: OT, DE, OG, WR
The Jim Mora Jr era lasted one measly season and now the Seahawks are trying to rebuild under former USC college guru Pete Carroll. Already Carroll and new GM John Schneider have begun making changes as DE Darryl Tapp, WR Nate Burelson, QB Seneca Wallace and others have been moved off the roster. Options will be plentiful for the rebuilding Seahawks as they will try to start Carroll’s first season in Seattle on the right foot. Carroll will need to figure out if a quarterback of the future, a stud receiver, or a penetrating defensive lineman should go in this spot. Luckily the Seahawks have a second first round selection at No. 14, so expect Carroll to take the best player available. After a surprising wait, the Seahawks select Oklahoma DT Gerald McCoy (6’4/297) to build their new defense around. The 2008 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, will play the role of “Warren Sapp” in the Seahawks new Tampa-2 scheme. McCoy produced 16.5 tackles for loss and six sacks, despite constant double teams. Look for the a fourth-year junior to collapse the pocket with his cat-quick moves, helping former 2009 first rounder LB Aaron Curry to make more game-changing plays.
7) Cleveland Browns – QB Jimmy Clausen, Notre Dame
2009 Record: 5-11 | Needs: QB, OT, DE, S
At the end of the 2009 season, you knew the winds of change were blowing around the Browns. New football czar Mike Holmgren quickly came into the picture to bring some consistency and change to an organization that has not been in the playoffs since 2002. Already there have been people coming in (GM Tom Heckertt, LB Scott Fujita, QB Jake Delhomme, and others) plus some house cleaning (DT Corey Williams, QB Brady Quinn, and others). So I believe the Browns will want to rebuild around the most important position on the field, the quarterback. In a bit of irony, Cleveland will hitch their franchise to their second quarterback from Notre Dame in the last 3 years when they select Jimmy Clausen. Playing in a “pro style” offense – a huge plus for any college QB — Clausen from 2007 to 2009 improved greatly under the tutelage of Charlie Weis. The junior-eligible is tough (played through a toe injury in 2009), accurate (68% completion percentage last year), and is a leader. However even though Clausen sported an outstanding 28 to 4 touchdown-to-interception ratio last year, some evaluators wonder about him not producing a lot of signature “big” wins during his starting tenure at ND, his arm strength, and rumored cocky attitude. The Browns will have Delhomme to keep the seat warm, then look for Clausen to begin working with young receivers Brian Robiskie and Mohamed Massaquoi.
8) Oakland Raiders – WR Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State
2009 Record: 5-11 | Needs: WR, OT, DE, S
Another year and there are even more question marks with the Raiders. The top of the past couple of drafts have not yielded much, so expect Raiders owner Al Davis to be looking to make a splash. With Davis always looking for game-breaking skills, don’t expect a “boring” and somewhat logical pick of an offensive lineman. Raiders head coach Tom Cable needs a No. 1 receiver to push disappointing 2009 first rounder Darius Heyward-Bey and to help strong-armed quarterback JaMarcus Russell. After passing on Michael Crabtree and Jeremy Maclin last year, the Raiders select the best receiver in this year’s draft, Oklahoma State’s Dez Bryant. The former Oklahoma State star should immediately help lift an offense that only scored 197 points (31st in NFL) and 17 touchdowns (tied for 32nd) last year. Bryant missed all but three games in 2009 after being suspended by the NCAA for inappropriate interaction with former NFL great Deion Sanders, but there is no denying his ability. Drawing comparisons to Houston Texan Pro Bowl receiver Andre Johnson, Bryant also combines size and speed. All anyone needs to do is look at his outstanding 2008 numbers of 87 catches for 1,480 yards and 19 touchdowns, plus an average of 17.9 yards per punt return with 2 TDs to see his game-changing ability. In 2008, Bryant was the Big 12’s Special Teams Player of the Year and a first team All-American. With a line-up that includes Bryant, RB Darren McFadden, Heyward-Bey, WR Louis Murphy and TE Zach Miller, Russell should not have any more excuses why he is not succeeding.
9) Buffalo Bills – NT Terrence Cody, Alabama
2009 Record: 6-10 | Needs: OT, QB, WR, DE
It seems in the Top 10 of the 2010 NFL Draft, there are several teams that are rebuilding with a new regime and the Buffalo Bills are no different. The braintrust of new head coach Chan Gailey and GM Buddy Nix have been brought in to light a spark under Ralph Wilson’s team. After selecting some quality rookies in 2009 like OG Eric Wood and safety Jairus Byrd, the Bills will be looking for more Day 1 starters in the 2010 NFL Draft. With both “franchise” quarterbacks and the draft’s top receiver already off the board, look for the Bills to get stronger on either their offensive or defensive line. With the Bills implementing a 3-4 scheme on defense, a big physical two-gap nose tackle is needed to keep O-linemen off past draft picks Aaron Maybin and Paul Posluzny. The Bills select Alabama NT Terrence “Mount” Cody. The cornerstone and fire hydrant of the national champion Alabama Crimson Tide defense is a rare behemoth athlete. The two-time consensus All-American usually plays at 6’4/340 — weighed 370 at Senior Bowl and 354 at NFL Combine – and can move like a much smaller man. Though his senior stats of six tackles for loss and no sacks will not “wow” anyone, Cody much like former mammoth nose tackle Ted Washington has value a the important gap controller in a 3-4 scheme.
10) Jacksonville Jaguars – DE Derrick Morgan, Georgia Tech
2009 Record: 7-9 | Needs: DE, S, QB, OG
There is no doubt that the Jags need help rushing the passer as they produced an NFL-low 14 sacks in 2009. With head coach Jack Del Rio being given probably his last chance calling the shots, Jacksonville cannot afford a selection of another under-achieving pass rusher. So the Jags will select Georgia Tech 4-3 end Derrick Morgan (6’4, 272), who is a solid every down player. Morgan was the ACC ‘s Defensive Player of the Year after leading the conference with 12.5 sacks plus he added 18.5 tackles for loss. The junior eligible should be helped by the presence of veterans DT John Henderson and free agent signee Aaron Kampman while pushing former first rounder Derrick Harvey, who has been a disappointment to say the least. Also if Jags owner Wayne Weaver still wants to grab Florida superman and Jacksonville “homeboy” QB Tim Tebow, he should be available in the second or third round.
11) Denver Broncos (from Chicago) – ILB Rolando McClain, Alabama
2009 Record: 8-8 | Needs: DT, DE, LB, S
After a fast start, the Broncos in head coach Josh McDaniels’ first season sputtered down the stretch to miss the playoffs — 4-game losing streak to end the season. However having the Bears’ high draft selection, will allow Denver to explore their options in the first round. The Broncos also may choose to add a second first round selection by trading disgruntled receiver Brandon Marshall. Already McDaniels and GM Brian Xanders have been busy this offseason acquiring former Browns QB Brady Quinn and a gaggle of defensive linemen (NT Jammal Williams, DE Jarvis Green, and DT Justin Bannan). With an eye on improving a defense that allowed 324 points in 2009, the Broncos select Alabama LB Rolando McClain (6’3, 258). The Butkus Award winner is a classic instinctive inside linebacker, who is a tackling machine – 2009 stats: 105 TKLs, 14.5 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, and 2 INTs. Look for the 2009 consensus All-American and the other Broncos linebackers (DJ Williams and Elvis Dumervil) to be all over the field playing behind a D-line led by Jamal Williams and 2nd-year pro Ronnie Fields. Some red-flags that have come up about McClain are an eye-gouging incident (against Georgia running back Washaun Ealey) and a hamstring pull (didn’t work out at the NFL Combine), but those should not affect his draft status.
12) Miami Dolphins – DE/OLB Jason Paul-Pierre, South Florida
2009 Record: 7-9 | Needs: LB, WR, OL, TE
One thing is for certain, we know Dolphins top executive Bill Parcells likes to have tough aggressive linebackers. With veteran Joey Porter being cut and the uncertainty surrounding Jason Taylor, the Dolphins will add the best pass rushing outside linebacker in the 2010 NFL Draft by selecting South Florida’s Jason Pierre-Paul (6’5, 270). Though a bit raw (only one year in D-1), Paul-Pierre is an awesome athlete that reminds many of a young Jevon Kearse down to an 81-inch wingspan and 10-3/8 hands. The much-traveled JUCO transfer started at College of the Canyons then transferred to Fort Scott Community College before settling-in at South Florida. The first-team All-Big East performer led his team in tackles for loss (16.5) and sacks (6.5) plus Pierre-Paul blocked a kick and returned an interception for a touchdown. At the NFL Combine, Pierre-Paul looked fast (4.67 in the forty), explosive, and fluid in drills.
13) S.F. 49ers – OT Trent Williams, Oklahoma
2009 Record: 8-8 | Needs: OLB, S, OL, QB
Armed with two first round picks, expect the resurgent Niners to build-up their offensive and defensive lines. On offense, San Francisco head coach Mike Singletary thinks that he is already set at running back (Frank Gore), quarterback (Alex Smith), tight end (Vernon Davis), and receiver (Michael Crabtree). But the Niners still need to sure up their pass protection and find a replacement for OT Tony Pashos, who departed for the Cleveland Browns. With several options on the O-line available, expect the Niners to grab the best blocker on the board. The Niners select athletic Oklahoma offensive tackle Trent Williams (6’4 ½, 314). A 40-game starter at OU with experience at both left and right tackle, Williams earned first-team All-Big 12 honors the last two years. Look for Williams to take his place as a solid right tackle (34 ¼-inch arms) in offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye’s unit. Adapt at pass and run blocking, Williams showed great athleticism at the NFL Combine, where he ran the second fastest forty (4.88) and fifth best short-shuttle time (4.63) of any offensive lineman.
14) Seattle Seahawks (from Denver) – OT Bruce Campbell, Maryland
2009 Record: 4-12 | Needs: OT, DE, OG, WR
Unless this pick is traded for Denver Broncos receiver Brandon Marshall or one of the Philadelphia Eagles quarterbacks, expect Seattle to build up front. After having taken a D-lineman earlier, expect the Seahawks to find an athletic protector for injury-prone 35-year quarterback Matt Hasselbeck. The Seahawks will attempt to replace future Hall of Famer Walter Jones, who retired, by selecting Maryland offensive tackle Bruce Campbell (6’6, 314). An incredibly athletic left tackle prospect with extremely long arms (36 ¼-inches), Campbell was the talk of the NFL Combine after running an offensive lineman best 4.85 forty, pounded out 34 reps on the 225 lb bench, jumped 32 inches vertically and displayed awesome feet in drills. Though there are concerns with Campbell only having 17 college starts, he should be able to help out right away on runs and screen passes. Having already retained emerging center Chris Spencer this offseason, he and Campbell should form a great cornerstone for Carroll’s balanced offense.
15) New York Giants – CB Joe Haden, Florida
2009 Record: 8-8 | Needs: CB, S, DT, LB
Giants head coach Tom Coughlin was “redder” than ever after the Giants started 5-0 only to limp home losing 8 of their last 11 games. For the second straight year, the G-Men routinely had problems containing big plays down the field — allowed more than 40 points five times in 2009. Already in hopes of improving their back four, the Giants have added versatile former Cardinals safety Antrel Rolle during free agency. But more help other than safety Kenny Phillips returning from a foot injury is needed. The Giants grab a partner for former first rounder Aaron Ross by selecting Florida cover corner Joe Haden (5’11, 190). Even though some people are wondering about Haden’s speed – ran a 4.57 at the NFL Combine, but recently was timed at high 4.3/low 4.4 range Florida’s Pro Day – there is no doubt that he is the best cover corner in this draft and can easily replace free agent Kevin Dockery for the Giants. Some are comparing him to Darrelle Revis as Haden led Florida in solo tackles, interceptions, and pass breakups. Showed his pro ability in the Gators’ 51-24 rout of Cincinnati in the Sugar Bowl as Haden shutdown top receiver prospect Mardy Gilyard yardage wise (only 41 receiving yards on 7 catches).
16) Tennessee Titans – DE Carlos Dunlap, Florida
2009 Record: 8-8 | Needs: DE, OT, CB, C
Season one without DT Albert Haynesworth produced an 8-8 record and a defense that allowed a whopping 402 points. To make matters worse for Titans’ head coach Jeff Fisher, veteran defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch signed with the Lions plus all indications are that Tennessee and DE Jevon Kearse will also be parting ways. In order to rebuild the Titans once feared defense, look for them to select Florida pass rusher Carlos Dunlap. Though some are saying Dunlap, a top-ten talent, is falling on some team’s draft boards due to some off the field issues and an off-and-on motor, I still believe Fisher will give him another shot. The former All-SEC defensive end is compared to 2010 free agent big fish Julius Peppers in that he is big (6’6, 290) and explosive when motivated. Last season, Dunlap had nine sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss, which were down from his 2008 numbers. But there is no denying the upside of this former Gators sack man as shown by his 2 sacks in the Sugar Bowl against Cincinnati.
17) S.F. 49ers (from Carolina) – OLB Sergio Kindle, Texas
2009 Record: 8-8 | Needs: OLB, S, OL, QB
The Niners may be tempted to take a homerun threat like running back CJ Spiller to compliment Frank Gore, but a better pass rush is needed. After securing their offensive line with their first selection (No. 13), look for the Niners to go back to head coach Mike Singletary’s heart which is an attacking defense. Former first rounder Manny Lawson has been a huge disappointment so the Niners try to fortify their defense to contend with the explosive Arizona Cardinals by selecting Texas outside linebacker Sergio Kindle (6’4, 255). The 3rd-team All-American played a variety of roles for the Longhorns including rush linebacker, defensive end, defensive tackle and special teams. Kindle led Texas with 22 tackles for loss and quarterback hurries. Though Kindle is smallish for a true NFL defensive end, with his knack for rushing the passer he is a natural fit for the Niners’ “Elephant” position (half OLB and half DE).
18. Pittsburgh Steelers – center Maurkice Pouncey, Florida
2009 Record: 9-7 | Needs: OL, RB, CB, DL
For a change the Steelers are not picking at the end of the draft after an up-and-down 2009 campaign that saw them lose important games to the Chiefs, Raiders, and Browns. After an offseason where Pittsburgh has re-signed their own quality players or brought in veteran free agents, they will have options in the draft. I believe that the Steelers will look to sure up the interior of their offensive line, since the unit has struggled at times since Pro Bowl offensive guard Alan Faneca left in free agency. The Steelers continue their excellence at the center position by taking Florida emerging O-lineman Maurkice Pouncey. The junior-eligible was the 2009 Rimington Award winner as the best pivot in college football and should be able to contribute right away. Pouncey has started at offensive guard and center at Florida and has very good feet. Playing with great leverage, the All-SEC pivot will help RB Rashard Mendenhall find holes that were not there in 2009. The upside with Pouncey is that he is only 20 years old and he should mature while learning from veteran Justin Hartwig.
19) Atlanta Falcons – OT Anthony Davis, Rutgers
2009 Record: 9-7 | Needs: S, LB, OL, DE
The Falcons in Year 2 of head coach Mike Smith and quarterback Matt Ryan were a little too inconsistent to return to the playoffs. One of the key factors in the Falcons losing games in 2009 was that Ryan had trouble staying in the line-up. With an eye on protecting the franchise quarterback better, the Falcons will select Rutgers road grader Anthony Davis – with an impressive 32 starts in college — to be a bookend to former first rounder Sam Baker. A developing player, Davis didn’t have the best combine (only 21 reps of 225 pounds and ran a 5.2 or 5.3 forty), but he does have a huge upside. The former All-Big East player is a natural right tackle with good size (6’6, 325) and 34-inch arms. Davis (21) will be able to open holes for RB Michael Turner while also keeping Ryan upright.
20) Houston Texans – RB CJ Spiller, Clemson
2009 Record: 9-7 | Needs: OL, RB, TE, S
In 2006, everyone was all over the Texans for not taking home run threat Reggie Bush with the first overall pick. However in hindsight , the Texans did make a great pick in selecting DE Mario Williams who is the anchor of their developing defense. With the status of current running back Steve Slaton (neck) in jeopardy, Texans’ head coach Gary Kubiak and GM Rick Smith will look to add another burner to their indoor track by selecting Clemson speedster CJ Spiller (5’11/196). At the NFL Combine, Spiller looked like the next “Reggie Bush” homerun threat type of player. He showed breakaway speed with a 4.37-second forty – some unofficially timed him at 4.27 seconds – and great hands catching the ball. Spiller is an explosive player as shown in 2009 season where he had 31 carries of 10+ yards and eight receptions for 20 yards or more plus contributed an NCAA-leading five TDs on returns. Look for Spiller (5.6 yards per carry average and 36 catches) to help out immediately on kickoffs and he should compete with Slaton and 2nd-year back Arian Foster for carries. As for any concerns regarding Spiller’s durability, he never missed a game in college due to injury.
21) Cincinnati Bengals – safety Earl Thomas, Texas
2009 Record: 10-6 | Needs: OL, DE, TE, S
The Bengals rebounded to surprisingly win the AFC North division with a 10-6 record — second playoff appearance in the last 19 seasons. On offense, the Bengals found a running game with a rejuvenated Cedric Benson plus quarterback Carson Palmer and receiver Chad Ochocinco were healthy again. However even though the Bengals were able to get turnovers from their emerging cornerback tandem of Jonathan Joseph and Leon Hall their defense was pushed around by the NY Jets in their playoff loss. With an eye on getting tougher on defense, head coach Marvin Lewis will select Texas safety Earl Thomas (5’10, 197). Though the Bengals re-signed veteran Roy Williams to a one-year deal, Thomas will bring speed and coverage to Lewis’ defense. He played strong safety at Texas, but he has “centerfielder” in the pros written all over him. In 2009, Thomas finished second in the nation with eight interceptions, two of which he returned for touchdowns. The former Longhorns star also is a very physical player too as shown by his five fumbles the last two seasons.
22) N.E. Patriots – OLB Brandon Graham, Michigan
2009 Record: 11-5 | Needs: LB, CB, TE, RB
In watching the Patriots lopsided playoff loss to the Baltimore Ravens it was obvious that even though the Patriots won the AFC East, they still were a little old at key positions, especially on defense. With an eye on getting younger, in the 2009 NFL Draft, head coach Bill Belichick grabbed up-and-coming players CB Darius Butler and safety Patrick Chung, but more is needed. The Patriots seem to have targeted the linebacker position as one of the areas that needs an upgrade this off-season as they will probably cut under-achiever Adalius Thomas and future Hall of Famer Junior Seau finally retired. The continued overhaul of Belichick’s prized unit will continue with the Patriots selecting Michigan’s Brandon Graham. A “LaMarr Woodley” clone, Graham is a pure 3-4 rush linebacker. Though a bit small at 6’1, 263 pounds, the former Wolverine has a knack for getting to the quarterback — second all time in Wolverines history in tackles for loss and sacks. At this year’s Senior Bowl, Graham was the MVP of the game producing 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble, and five tackles with three of them for loss. “He’s a football player,” Lions head coach Jim Schwartz said of Graham after the game. “You know, tweener, whatever — he’s a football player.” With 3 second-round picks expect Belichick to address other areas on his offense and defense then.
23) Green Bay Packers – CB Kyle Wilson, Boise State
2009 Record: 11-5 | Needs: CB, OL, DE, S,
After a shootout 51-45 overtime playoff loss to the Arizona Cardinals, you have to think that Packers head coach Mike McCarthy and GM Ted Thompson should be thinking defense. Yes, the Packers finished the regular season right near the top in every defensive category, but there are still areas of need. One of the key areas on the Packers’ defense that will need to be looked at is cornerback. Even though veterans Charles Woodson (2009 Defensive MVP) and Al Harris have been one of the best combos for years, the Packers need to get younger in coverage. The Packers select solid Boise State corner Kyle Wilson (5’10/190). A 4-year starter, Wilson was one of the stars of this year’s Senior Bowl and NFL Network’s Mike Mayock could not say enough great things about him. Wilson is great at both press and zone coverage and has great hands as shown by his 8 INTs the last two years – returned two for TDs as a senior. An academic All-WAC, Wilson is also smart and tough (never missed a game due to injury). Plus he is an explosive punt returner and is willing to play on special teams.
24) Philadelphia Eagles – OG Mike Iupati, Idaho
2009 Record: 11-5 | Needs: DE, OL, LB, S
The Eagles in 2009 did make the playoffs and won 10+ regular season games again under head coach Andy Reid. But the Birds also need to face the cold hard fact that the Dallas Cowboys dominated them by a margin of 58-14 in their last two games (Week 17 and in the Wild Card round). Though many are saying that the team’s first pick should go to fixing some of the holes on the Eagles’ defense. I believe that Philadelphia will put in the tape from their playoffs loss and see the Cowboys’ D-line dominating, especially NT Jay Ratliff. With the thought of getting better upfront, Reid reverts to form and selects one of the draft’s best interior offensive lineman, Mike Iupati. The big (6’5, 325) All-American from Idaho was one of the most impressive lineman at this year’s Senior Bowl. Some have said that Iupati could play on the outside as he has 35-inch arms, good footwork, and balance. By adding Iupati, the Eagles should be covered if center Jamal Jackson is slow to heal from his knee injury and 2009 free agency pick-up Stacy Andrews continues to struggle.
25. Baltimore Ravens – safety Taylor Mays, USC
2009 Record: 11-5 | Needs: LB, TE, CB, S
After another successful season, the Ravens knew they had a need at receiver so they made the big move of trading for Anquan Boldin. By fixing up their receiver position, the Ravens can now concentrate on other areas of need in the draft. I think one of the Ravens biggest weaknesses in 2009 was their secondary. Even though John Harbaugh’s unit produced a (+10) in turnover ratio, injuries to veteran safety Ed Reed and rookie CB Lardarius Webb (ACL) were huge down the stretch. Look for the Ravens to find Reed’s eventual replacement by selecting defensive back Taylor Mays from USC. This big (6’3, 220) hard-hitting safety can really fly as shown by his forty time at this year’s NFL Combine — some unofficial hand-times had him at 4.24seconds, but “officially” his time was 4.43 seconds, which is still unbelievable for a safety. Mays should learn on special teams and in nickel coverage as he should have one of the best teachers around in future Hall of Famer Reed. Also playing behind veterans LB Ray Lewis, NT Haloti Ngata, and OLB Terrell Suggs, will help the former USC standout in coverage and making more game-changing plays — caused just two takeaways as a senior (1 INT and 1 fumble recovery).
26. Arizona Cardinals – DE Jared Odrick, Penn State
2009 Record: 11-5 | Needs: LB, DL, OL, CB
After winning the NFC West for the second year in a row, the Cardinals are definitely in a state of flux. Already this offseason has seen quarterback Kurt Warner retire, safety Antrel Rolle cut, LB Karlos Dansby leaving in free agency to the Dolphins and receiver Anquan Boldin being traded away. Offensively, Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt and GM Rod Graves have already started to replenish with signings like QB Derek Anderson. But a defense that allowed 45 points in the playoffs to the Packers and letting-up an average of 20 points per game in the regular season, needs to get better. Grabbing a linebacker to replace Dansby is an option, but I believe the Cardinals will select solid Penn State two-way defensive end Jared Odrick (6’5, 305). This high-motor versatile defensive lineman is perfect for the Cardinals’ 3-4 defense. The rangy 300-pounder had a great Senior Bowl week and has a quick first step. Odrick is a pocket collasper, who was the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. Look for the former Penn State star join up-and-coming DE Calais Campbell in making the Cardinals tougher upfront. Also by selecting Odrick, Arizona could possibly trade disgruntled DE Darnell Dockett.
27) Dallas Cowboys – WR Golden Tate, Notre Dame
2009 Record: 11-5 | Needs: OL, CB, S, WR
The NFC East champion Dallas Cowboys have talent everywhere on their roster, so they could go a variety of directions (O-line, Secondary??), but I believe owner and GM Jerry Jones will get quarterback Tony Romo another weapon to play with. Though former special teamer Miles Austin emerged in 2009, the Cowboys still have a big hole at the receiver position. Holdover Roy Williams has not lived up to expectations – gave up a ton to get him and he is nowhere near former Number #1 receiver Terrell Owens – and the rest of the receivers seem to be “just” guys. With a mindset of scoring more in the new “pass-first” NFL, look for the Cowboys to grab receiver Golden Tate from Notre Dame. Tate has been compared to Carolina Panthers WR Steve Smith in that he is a little undersized (5’11,195), but has “Take It to the House” vertical skills — his 2009 numbers were 93 catches for 1,496 yards, and 15 TDs. The junior-eligible has great run-after-catch ability that should help Romo on crossing routes plus also open things up for Austin and TE Jason Witten. The learning curve for Tate should be that high as he already in a pro-style offense under former head coach Charlie Weis. At this year’s combine, Tate showed his game-breaking speed by running an official 4.42 in the forty.
28) San Diego Chargers – RB Ryan Matthews, Fresno State
2009 Record: 13-3 | Needs: DT, RB, CB, LB
The Chargers’ 2009 season had so much promise entering the playoffs –11-game winning streak – but things quickly changed as the NY Jets took care of business by knocking them out of the postseason. With an eye on improving their team for the future, head coach Norv Turner and GM AJ Smith made the tough decisions of releasing veterans RB LaDainian Tomlinson and NT Jamal Williams. Look for Turner and Smith to sure-up their ground game — Tomlinson and Michael Bennett gone leaving only Darren Sproles — by selecting physical every down back Ryan Matthews. The number two rusher in NCAA football (276 carries for 1,808 rushing yards and 19 TDs) is a big (6’0, 218) runner that also has very good speed. He recently ran a 4.45 forty at the NFL Combine and is known to not be afraid to run the ball up the middle. Matthews can also do some things out of the “Wildcat” as he is a former high school quarterback and the Chargers should love his ability to carry the mail – in 2009 had eight games with 20 or more rushing attempts.
29) New York Jets – DT Dan Williams, Tennessee
2009 Record: 9-7 | Needs: S, WR, LB, OL
After a great year where the J-E-T-S jumped from the NFL’s crowded middle to surprise division winners, the Bengals and Chargers, in the playoffs. Expect brash new head coach Rex Ryan and GM Mike Tannebaum to stay aggressive in keeping their team in the playoff hunt. Though I believe the Jets will probably sit back and see what falls in their lap – possibly a safety to replace the recently traded Kerry Rhodes (Cardinals) – I believe Ryan will not pass up the chance to improve his No. 1 ranked defense. With Pro Bowl defensive tackle Kris Jenkins getting older, the NY Jets look for some help for him in NT Dan Williams (6’3, 327). The NFL-ready Williams is a big strong defensive lineman that is great at the point of attack. A four-starter after redshirting in 2005, the former Volunteer is well schooled on pro techniques having played under former veteran NFL defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin. At the NFL Combine, Williams produced solid numbers 5.17 in the forty and 27 reps of 225 pounds.
30) Minnesota Vikings – CB Devin McCourty, Rutgers
2009 Record: 12-4 | Needs: S, CB, OL, RB
The Vikings were an overtime field goal away from playing in the Super Bowl, so they will be looking to the draft to put them a step closer to the big game. With all indications pointing to quarterback Brett Favre coming back in 2010, expect the Vikings to add pieces in the draft that can push them over the top. My expectation is that head coach Brad Childress and GM Rick Spielman will concentrate on bringing in defensive help as too often in 2009, the Vikes were in higher scoring games – allowed 321 points to rank 10th in the NFL. I believe that the Vikings will look to improve their secondary, because when Pro Bowl cornerback Antoine Winfield was injured , defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier’s unit struggled. Look for the Vikings to grab rising corner Devin McCourty (5’11, 193) from Rutgers. An All-Big East selection in 2009, McCourty can help a team in a variety of ways. He can play man-to-man or Cover 2, is a very good tackler (80 Tkls in ’09), and has good hands (6 INTs in career and broke-up 10 passes). McCourty also is a major special teams guys as he averaged 25.1 yards per kickoff return with a touchdown in ’09 and blocked seven kicks in his career. In a pre-draft conference call NFL Network’s Mike Mayock said of the 3-year starter, “(McCourty) might be the best special teams value in the draft in addition to being a potential starting corner. He’s a gunner and a jammer, he’s a return guy. I think he could fit in quickly in the nickel package. He’s a very, very physical defensive back. Most people have him in the second round but he could be a legitimate late one [first-round pick].” Has a twin brother, Jason, who plays for the Tennessee Titans.
31) Indianapolis Colts – OT Charles Brown, USC
2009 Record: 14-2 | Needs: OL, LB, CB, S
The options will be plentiful for Colts head coach Jim Caldwell and GM Bill Polian as they look to improve last year’s Super Bowl runner-up. Even though Indy won an NFL leading 14 games, there are still are areas that need improvement. I believe one of the Colts’ major problems in their Super Bowl loss to the Saints was their offensive line. Too often QB Peyton Manning was rushed on his attempts and other than Pro Bowl center Jeff Saturday this unit has to play better everywhere. The Colts grab USC emerging offensive tackle Charles Brown (6’5, 303). A converted tight end, Brown is a very athletic big man with good feet and long arms (35 1/4-inches) that help him as a pass blocker. At USC, Brown was the cornerstone of Pete Carroll’s O-line and he should immediately push Colts under-achiever Charles Johnson for playing time. Even with Manning playing behind a patchwork line in 2009, he still won his record setting 4th NFL MVP award. So imagine what he will be able to do with Brown taking care of his blindside.
32) New Orleans Saints – DE Everson Griffen, USC
2009 Record: 13-3 | Needs: LB, DE, S, OL
The Saints shocked the world by winning Super Bowl XLIV against the Colts. Saints head coach Sean Payton and GM Mickey Loomis proved to be miracle workers as they lifted their team to new heights. On offense, there is an embarrassment of skill players and a very good offensive line surrounding QB Drew Brees, so you have to think that the Saints will look for defensive help in the draft – allowed 341 points. With intentions of moving on from underachieving free agent DE Charles Grant and pushing holdover Will Smith, the Saints will select USC DE Everson Griffen (6’4, 274). The All-PAC 10 performer is a solid two-way defensive end, who finished his collegiate career with 18 sacks and 22 tackles for loss. Griffen really shined at the NFL Combine, where he ran an impressive 4.66 forty and put up 32 reps of 225 pounds.
Teams not owning a first round pick
Carolina Panthers – 2009 Record: 8-8 | Needs: DT, LB, QB, WR
For the second year in a row, the Carolina Panthers will not have a first round draft pick. This year’s pick went to the San Francisco 49ers in a deal where the Niners traded their second round pick (No. 43 overall) in 2009 to Carolina for their 2010 first rounder. The Panthers used the pick to take DE Everett Brown, but I am sure after an 8-8 campaign, they wish they had it back. Carolina this offseason has been getting rid of veterans like QB Jake Delhomme, DT Damione Lewis, DE Julius Peppers, FB Brad Hoover, and others. So expect them to be active in getting younger players that can contribute right away. Carolina’s first pick will be at No. 16 of the second round and you can expect them to be looking for D-line and linebacker help.
Chicago Bears – 2009 Record: 7-9 | Needs: WR, OL, DT, S
The Bears traded away their first round pick in the much ballyhooed acquisition of quarterback Jay Cutler. The Broncos gladly took the pick and after an 7-9 season last year, you know that Chicago probably would like to have the pick back. Though Cutler performed well at times, he also threw 26 interceptions. With head coach Lovie Smith on the hot seat, look for the Bears to add more help for Cutler (WR,O-line) and their retooling defense (CB, S, DL) when they first pick in the 3rd round (11th pick of that round).
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)
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