Huddle Up: The Year of the Lions? By Jason King

 The Detroit Lions haven’t been to the playoffs since 1999.  Since then all three of Detroit ’s other professional teams have won championships. We have seen two United States Presidents since the Lions last played into January.  The average price for a gallon of gas was $1.13 in 1999.  I don’t want to go as far as saying hell will freeze over before the Lions get to the playoffs again, but I’m sure it feels that way to Lions fans.The Lions won the NFL championship in 1957.  In the 54 years since then,  Detroit has been to the playoffs only nine times.  The Arizona Cardinals own the longest drought in the NFL, not winning a championship in 64 years.  Still, the Lions are one of only four teams never to appear in a Super Bowl.  The other three are: Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Cleveland Browns.

Few fans have suffered like Lions fans.

This could be the year their fortunes change.  The NFC is stacked.  Seven teams won 10 or more games and 14 of the 16 teams in the conference won at least six games last year. The Lions were 6-10 and won their last 4 games.  They gained a lot of momentum at the end of last season and seemed to buy into what Jim Schwartz was teaching.  It looks like the Lions could be ready to take that next step.

They looked razor sharp in their preseason rout of the Cincinnati Bengals 34-3.  Matthew Stafford looked healthy as he led the Lions to touchdowns on his only two series.  He was 6-7 with 71 yards and 2 TD passes.  The 26-yard TD pass to Calvin Johnson made Lions fans everywhere feel good.  Johnson ran an out route and Stafford threw a pin-point pass right at the pylon where only Johnson could catch it.  If they stay healthy this could be one of the most dynamic quarterback/wide receiver combinations in the NFL over the next 10 years.

The defense is a work in progress.  They looked good in the game against the Bengals, even intercepting rookie QB Andy Dalton on his first pass attempt.  Once again, they were playing the Bengals, nonetheless they looked impressive.

It’s only one preseason game but if the Lions can overcome some early injuries (DT Nick Fairley, RB Michael Leshoure, and LT Jeff Backus being the most prominent) and address their issues in the defensive secondary they could compete in a tough NFC.  One thing is for sure, the Lions are finally headed in the right direction.

Huddle Up

1. Cam Newton could make a big impact on the Carolina Panthers franchise:  The ovation Newton got when he came in the game was astounding for a preseason game.  Panthers fans are excited to see what Newton can do.  It will be interesting to see what effect he will have on that community.  He looked pretty good in the game.  He made some good throws and already looks like he has the respect of his teammates.

 2. The Bears don’t play by the same rules as everybody else.  They apparently didn’t get the memo that the new kickoff rules state that ALL kickoffs are at the 35.  They disregarded this and kicked their first two kickoffs from the 30.  Roger Godell please fine them heavily, especially since this was a premeditated act of disobedience.

3. Mario Williams needs time to adjust to his new role.  Slow up before calling him the next DeMarcus Ware.  Wade Phillips will have that defense a lot better than it was last year.  He got off to a good start, as they set a franchise preseason record with seven sacks in their preseason opener against the Jets. How quickly Williams finds his place could be a key to the Texans season.

4. The 49ers need a quarterback.  Jim Harbough must have been kicking himself watching the 49ers preseason opener on Friday night.  He probably thought “I should have stayed at Stanford because Andrew Luck is 10 times better than any quarterback I have on this roster.”  Seriously, Alex Smith looked horrible and Colin Kaepernick looked worse.  I expect Alex Smith to play better once he learns the system, but that could take a while.  There is hope, as 7 wins could win the NFC West again.

5. The Patriots put up 47 points in a preseason game which is a franchise record.  15 Patriot regulars sat out the game including Tom Brady, Wes Welker, Jerrod Mayo, Albert Haynesworth, and Chad Ochocinco.  Bill Bellichick really is a mad scientist.  He’ll run up the score in the preseason!!!

6. I get the feeling that a lot of teams will regret passing on Ryan Mallett in the April draft.  I don’t know if he will make his mark in New England , but we could look back at this draft 15 years from now and say Mallett was the best quarterback.

7.  Boy, the Colts need Peyton Manning to be healthy.  He is the most valuable player to his team PERIOD.  And nobody else is even close.  The Colts not having Manning would be just like the Cavaliers without LeBron James, from first to worst.  They would struggle to win 3 games.  It’s just another reason for Colts fans to be grateful for No. 18.

8.  First preseason games are meaningless.

9.  Greed is ruining college football.  These greedy bastards don’t give a damn about the integrity of student-athletes or collegiate athletics.  All they care about is money.  All we hear about are: scandals, recruiting violations, conference realignment, or adding more meaningless bowl games.  The play on the field is secondary.  Texas A&M president R. Bowen Loftin said, “We’ve made no decision about terminating our relationship with the Big 12.” “This is all about what is best for Texas A&M, along with … visibility for us and our athletes and financial resources. That’s what it’s all about. I think anybody in my shoes would have exactly the same kinds of concerns.”  Key words are “visibility for us…and financial resources.”  Now we hear about the scandal at the University of Miami .  The landscape in college sports has to change.

10.  Its only one game, but the new kickoff rule is going to change the NFL.  Yes it will prevent scary injuries seen in recent years on kickoffs, but it will also result in more touchbacks.  Who this helps and hurts most are still to be determined and I think judgments on this matter need to be reserved for a season or two at least.

 

Jason King is a contributing writer at Taking It to the House and can be reached at jdk2032@yahoo.com

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Black History Month Podcast – Wally Triplett Interview

 

 

In a Taking It to the House Black Hostory Month Podcast, we take a look back at the career of legend Wally Triplett.  In a rare interview from Super Bowl XL, Triplett who was the first African American to be drafted and signed by the NFL, talks about his journey from LaMott, PA to Penn State (first black player) to the NFL.

Thanksgiving Football Equals Americana

The Masters of Disaster (MOD) from a Turkey Bowl circa 1991

Football on Thanksgiving is an “Autumn Ritual” to me just like the phrase, “Can you please pass the gravy”.   The game has aligned itself beautifully with the greatest holiday ever, in my opinion, and it provides an opportunity for fellowship by friends and family around America’s Game.

“The Thanksgiving games are quite a tradition, not just in Detroit, but for America,” says NFL Network analyst Stever Mariucci, a Michigan native who participated in three Thanksgiving Day games as the Lions’ head coach in 2003-05.  “I learned firsthand about the excitement in Detroit for the game.  You enjoy playing in front of the home crowd.  It’s special.”

 Whether attending a hometown rivalry game – in my town growing up it is Abington (my alma mater) vs. friendly rival Cheltenham that goes back to 1915 (see all of the scores from this rivalry) – or playing in a “Turkey Bowl” touch football game with friends/family, or just watching the now three NFL games and other college games, Americans like myself cannot get enough Turkey Day football.

My most vivid memories of Thanksgiving are attending the hometown rivalry game in the early afternoon then going over to my paternal grandmother’s house for a celebration like none other with food like turkey, macaroni and cheese, stuffing, cranberry, candy yams and many other favorites while having good fellowship over food and of course football.  When I was younger my grandmother’s television was a big cabinet black/white set and I vividly remember watching the Detroit Lions (usually lost) and Dallas Cowboys (usually won) play many Thanksgiving games on that set. 

The earliest Thanksgiving game that I can remember was the Chicago Bears against the Detroit Lions in the Pontiac Silverdome November. 27, 1980. I remember this game, because Vince Evans was at quarterback for the Bears (rare to see an African-American quarterback at the time) and the great Walter Payton rushed 18 times for 123 yards and I think he even threw a pass.  The ending was everything, as the Bears won an overtime thriller 23-17 when Bears kick returner Dave Williams returned the overtime kickoff for a touchdown, completing a Bears’ comeback from a 17-3 deficit.

My favorite Thanksgiving game of course involved the classic broadcasting team of John Madden and Pat Summeral commentating a Turkey Bowl classic on November 23, 1989 in Texas Stadium.  This game dubbed “Bounty Bowl I” featured a Philadelphia Eagles 27-0 shellacking win over the hated Dallas Cowboys, which left me over-the-top giddy.

My joy came from the fact that as a one-time long suffering Eagles follower, I finally got to stick-it to the many stinking Cowboys’ fans in my family (brother and many cousins). Funny thing about Philadelphia, there are many “never have been to Texas” Dallas Cowboys fans who year after year love to talk about Super Bowl rings to hometown Eagles fans. 

However this 1989 NFC East afternoon rivalry game was something extra special for me to watch as the Birds won handily and the Cowboys turncoats in my grandmother’s suburban Philadelphia home had to eat some crow with their turkey that day. 

The story of the game was Buddy Ryan’s Eagles defense knocking the stuffing of Troy Aikman as they seemed to sack him a million times.  The game ended with my favorite player Reggie White eating the ceremonial Madden Turkey Leg as the game’s MVP.

2009 NFL Thanksgiving Schedule 

Green Bay Packers (6-4) at Detroit Lions (2-8), 12:30 PM  (FOX) – Yes, everyone just like going to your grandmother’s house on Thanksgiving, the nation still must endure watching the uually pitiful Detroit Lions on TV on Turkey Day, even though it seems like forever.  This year,  in an old-time Thanksgiving Day traditional match-up, the Packers will travel to Detroit to face the Lions who maybe without QB Matthew Stafford (shoulder) and WR Calvin “Megatron” Johnson (hand, knee).

Oakland  Raiders (3-7) at Dallas Cowboys (7-3), 4:15 PM (CBS)  — Naturally America’s Holiday, Thanksgiving, will feature “America’s Team” as the Cowboys take on the dangerous Oakland Raiders in Jerry Jones’ billion dollar play pen.  We will see if Turkey Day will be Cowboys QB Tony Romo’s last hurrah before his usual December swoon.

New York Giants (6-4) at Denver Broncos (6-4) , 8:20 PM  (NFLN) — The G-Men continue their quest to return to the team that started 5-0 this season as they travel to the Rockies for a huge Thanksgiving night game against the Broncos.  This game will surely have playoff implications in both the AFC and NFC as both were fast starters, but have shown inconsistency of late.

Lloyd’s Leftovers

  • Lets talk about seating arrangements at the 2009 NFL Thanksgiving table.  At the “Adult table” for playmakers are Vikings QB Brett Favre, Titans RB Chris Johnson, Colts head coach Jim Caldwell, Colts QB Peyton Manning, Eagles WR DeSean Jackson, Bills safety Jairus Byrd, Bears WR Johnny Knox, Vikings RB Adrian Peterson, Saints QB Drew Brees, and Broncos DE Elvis Dumervil.  Spots at the “Kids table” for disappointments  should be seated NY Jets QB Mark Sanchez, Cowboys WR Roy Williams, Raiders QB JaMarcus Russell, Eagles O-lineman Stacy Andrews, Bears QB Jay Cutler, Giants DB C.C Brown, Texans kicker Kris Brown, the Steelers’ coverage units, Bears DT Tommie Harris, and Broncos backup QB Chris Simms.
  • There was a time that Thanksgiving football was defined in the African American community by rivalry games like Lincoln vs Howard.  Here is an excerpt from a piece that I wrote on the subject… “The “outside world” of major white college football may have had traditional rivalries like Harvard-Yale, Ohio State-Michigan, and Notre Dame-Army.  But to most African American football fans those contests had nothing on the annual Thanksgiving Day clash between the mighty men of Lincoln (PA) and their rival school Howard University.  After their initial meeting in 1894, the annual Lincoln-Howard Thanksgiving game quickly became an autumn ritual.”  Check out the rest of the piece.
  • I am often asked, “Why are we subjected to the stinking Detroit Lions and hated Dallas Cowboys every Thanksgiving??”  The reason is “Carpe diem” as these two teams both had the vision of matching College Football on America’s Holiday and seized opportunities to host football games when everyone else was afraid the crowds would stay away.  The Lions were the first in 1934 and the Cowboys followed suit in 1966.  The NFL also added a rotating third game in 2006 (Chiefs winning 19-10 over the Broncos) on Turkey Day to help boost their channel NFL Network.  Our friends over at Mental Floss give some great background on the subject of NFL football on Thanksgiving.
  • The oldest high school Turkey Day Game rivalry is in Massachusetts between Needham and Wellesley, dating back to 1882.  Find out everything about Thanksgiving Football.
  • You can now see the results for every NFL Thanksgiving game going back to the 1920’s (courtesy of the Pro Footballl Hall of Fame)

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)

Lions beat the Redskins to finally end their losing streak

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Calvin “Megatron” Johnson and the Lions got their first win of the season against the Redskins and ended their 19-game losing streak

For the first time since Dec. 23, 2007, the Detroit Lions can finally call themselves winners. In an upset special the Lions led by rookie QB Matthew Stafford (21/36, 241 yards, 1 TD, and 0 INTs) scored a 19-14 victory over the Washington Redskins.  The win ended their 19-game losing streak and hopefully ended any reference to their NFL record low of a 0-16 season in 2008. The Lions (1-2) no longer to worry about catching the infamous Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 1976-1977 who lost an NFL record 26 games in a row.

The poor Redskins who now will be the answer to every punchline fought valiantly in the end, but they were too sloppy and did not play with the urgency needed.  The Skins also lost high-priced offseason DT Albert Haynesworth, who was carted off with an injured hip.  Lions points came via a Stafford 21-yard touchdown pass to Bryant Johnson – had a big day with four catches for 73 yards and 1 TD — in the first quarter.  And a short touchdown run by reserve RB Maurice Morris in the fourth quarter after a huge pass interference penalty was called on Redskins S Chris Horton in the endzone.

After the score by Morris, the Lions defense rose to the occasion by stopping the Redskins when it mattered most including a severely botched hook-and-lateral on the last play of the game.  The Lions held the ball for over 36 minutes, allowed the Skins to convert only 2 of 10 first downs, and forced one interception.

Now all the negative attention will turn Redskins head coach Jim Zorn, whose team had 9 penalties and continued having problems jelling on offense.  After an 8-8 season, Zorn in his second season already has a loss to the formerly winless Lions and a near miss last week to the lackluster Rams.

The 2009 NFL Draft Preview

By Lloyd Vance, Taking It to the House, Sr. NFL Writer

(New York, NY) – It will be Christmas in April as optimism and hope abound for all 32 NFL franchises as the 74th NFL Draft takes center stage on the sports calendar.  Sure the NBA playoffs, NHL playoffs, first month of baseball, and any number of sporting events are also occurring, but fans around the globe are most interested in the NFL Draft.  The event is so grandiose that it will take place in the largest city in the United States and at the venerable showbiz palace Radio City Music Hall.  The NFL Draft is now a primetime event that will start at 4 PM, so NFL fans everywhere better get their chores done early enough on Saturday to plop themselves in front of the television for a minimum of 4 hours – I am not even going to mention the die-hards that stick around intensely watching the second day on Sunday too.

With all the hoopla around the NFL Draft, one has to wonder was there this much fanfare on February 8th, 1936.  That was the date the brainchild of league legend Bert Bell took flight as the first NFL Draft was held at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Philadelphia – A much quieter event where players like Tuffy Leemans were selected and didn’t know about it until receiving correspondence from the league.  The 1936 NFL draft was only been a tiny ripple compared to the ocean’s worth of hype and expectation surrounding the 2009 NFL Draft.  The whole thing is a “can’t miss event” causing jersey-clad fans to line the streets of Manhattan in the middle of the night with millions more watching on television.   There is no need to worry about the NFL Draft television viewers as their extended couch time will include quality time with their favorite “draft guy” (NFL Network’s Mike Mayock or ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr).   As the seconds tick down on the clock, households in every NFL city will ponder questions like “Is my team trading up”, “Will they go for a need pick or the proverbial best player on the board”, “What are the stats on my team’s first round pick”, “Is that linebacker from my alma mater still available”, and many others.

For the most part all of the hoopla is just part of the show and 256 players will have new addresses after Saturday and Sunday.  One word of caution for all fans and media, please take it easy on your rants and raves for a particular player or team, because as I always say, “It takes 2 to 3 years to evaluate a draft”.  I know fans everywhere can remember the names of former “can’t miss players” that turned into just plain “missed picks” (Audbrey Bruce, Tim Couch, Courtney Brown, Andre Wadsworth, Kijana Carter, Ryan Leaf and many others). 

Remember the only thing that is certain on draft day is that Jets fans in attendance will “boo” their first pick.

2009 NFL Draft Facts

Where: Radio City Music Hall, 1260 Avenue of the Americas, New York City (Between 50th and 51st Streets).

When:   4:00 PM ET, Saturday, April 25 (Rounds 1-2) 

              10:00 AM ET, Sunday, April 26 (Rounds 3-7)

Television:   NFL Network (4th year) and ESPN / ESPN2 (30th consecutive year)

The number of players attending the draft: The number of players attending the draft has increased this year to nine players, which is the largest number since the late 1980’s.  The potential stars include: Texas Tech WR Michael Crabtree, Wake Forest LB Aaron Curry, USC LB Brian Cushing, Kansas State QB Josh Freeman, Virginia OT Eugene Monroe, Mississippi OT Michael Oher, Texas DE Brian Orakpo, Baylor OT Jason Smith, and Georgia QB Matthew Stafford

On the Clock: 

NFL trying for speed again – Last year the NFL’s new time format netted an almost record time of 3 hours, 30 minutes for the first round.  We will see if this year’s event can be just as speedy.

Hurry up with your picks – Clubs will be allowed 10 minutes to make their selection in Round 1.  Each pick in Round 2 will be allocated 7 minutes, rather than 10.  On Sunday, Rounds 3-7 will be conducted, with each selection allocated 5 minutes.

Number of Picks:  There will be 256 selections with the Detroit Lions holding the first selection and the Kansas City Chiefs holding the pick that is “Mr. Irrelevant” (Rd 7, 256)

Compensatory Picks – There will be a total of 32 compensatory choices in the 2009 NFL Draft from 16 teams. Cincinnati and Tennessee received the most compensatory picks with four apiece. Here is how the 32 compensatory picks are broken down by team: Cincinnati 4, Tennessee 4, Chicago 3, New England 3, Seattle 3, Dallas 2, Jacksonville 2, San Diego 2, San Francisco 2, Arizona 1, Detroit 1, Indianapolis 1, Kansas City 1, New York Giants 1, Pittsburgh 1, Washington 1.

Teams with multiple selections in first round: Detroit Lions (Picks 1 and 20); Denver Broncos (Picks 12 and 18); Buffalo Bills (Picks 11 and 28).

Teams without a pick a first rounder: Dallas (Traded it to Detroit for WR Roy Williams, Chicago (Traded it to Denver for QB Jay Cutler), and Carolina (Traded it to Philadelphia at the ’08 Draft to select OT Jeff Otah – Philly has since sent the pick to the Bills).

Teams rumored trying to trade up: Washington Redskins (want a shot at USC QB Mark Sanchez), Philadelphia Eagles (might have to move-up to get a shot at Knowshon Moreno), New England Patriots (want a front-line LB), Denver Broncos (with 2 picks in the 1st may try to build a package to get Mark Sanchez)

Players Moving Up Draft Boards: USC QB Mark Sanchez, Kansas State QB Josh Freeman, LSU DE Tyson Jackson, Ohio State WR Terry Robiske, West Virginia QB/WR Pat White, Texas A&M QB Stephen McGee, Cincinnati DE/TE Connor Barwin, and UConn DB Darius Butler.

Veteran Players rumored to be on the trading block:

Anquan Boldin, Cardinals WR: Boldin and his agent Drew Rosenhaus have never stopped complaining about his contract since Larry Fitzgerald got his deal.  The Cardinals seem on the fence on whether to move on from a player they have under contract for two more years.  But that could all change if a team comes up with the Cardinals asking price (1st and 3rd round selections.  The teams that are considered to be in the Boldin sweepstakes are the Ravens, Titans, Eagles, Giants and Jets. 

Braylon Edwards, Browns WR: Edwards is due to be a free agent after next season and so the rebuilding Browns are looking to move him. This is another case where his current team may want too much in return.  The Giants seem very interest in having the inconsistent Edwards replace Plaxico Burress.  But they are asking for a package including Mathias Kiwanuka and the Giants are balking.  It will be interesting if the Browns will settle for just the Giants’ first round pick (29) in return for Edwards.  Another team to watch is the New York Jets.

Chad “Ocho Cinco” Johnson, Bengals WR: Ocho Cinco hasn’t reported to any of the Bengals’ off-season workouts, so you know he and his agent Drew Rosenhaus want out of Cincy.  However Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis has made it clear that Johnson is not going anywhere.  Johnson’s production dropped last year to 53 receptions for 540 yards and 4 TDs, so his trade value is not as high as in the past.  . The Eagles and Cowboys have been brought up in conversations regarding Johnson, but the Bengals are not willing to let him go for less than a 2nd rounder.

Julius Peppers, Panthers DE: After Carolina placed the franchise tag on Peppers, he fumed.  Peppers has yet to sign the franchise deal that will pay him over $16 million in salary next year.  The Pro Bowl defensive end, who had 14.5 sacks in 2008 wants to be treated like Vikings DE Jarred Allen.  Allen worked out a trade from the Chiefs and received a nice lucrative deal from the Vikes.  If Peppers really wants to go to the Patriots or any other team, he will first have to sign his franchise deal.  I think the Panthers will continue to hold on to the four-time Pro Bowler until training camp to see if Peppers finally wants to play ball.

Brady Quinn, Browns QB: Maybe the odd man out of Cleveland, if the team drafts a quarterback to develop.  The Broncos and Vikings are said to be high on Quinn, so maybe a trade can be worked out.  My feeling is Quinn and Derek Anderson will fight it out and before the 2010 Draft one of them will have a new address.

Jason Campbell, Redskins QB: The Redskins already tried to unsuccessfully to trade for Jay Cutler, so Campbell is on notice.  The efficient passer is said to be miffed at his current treatment and if Daniel Snyder can somehow trade up for Mark Sanchez look for Campbell to be elsewhere.  I believe the Redskins with their small number of draft picks (five) will go defense in the draft and keep Campbell another year.

Michael Vick, Falcons QB: Atlanta just like earlier this season will see it is impossible to trade the suspended and imprisoned quarterback.  Vick first must be reinstated after his expected release in May or July and then there is the matter of his huge contract.  Expect the Falcons to quietly release him after the draft allowing the former Pro Bowler to find a team will to take a PR hit by signing him (SF 49ers, Cowboys, Raiders???)

Lloyd’s Leftovers

Georgia on my mind – If the Lions select Matthew Stafford with the first overall pick, he will be the first University of Georgia player selected first in the draft since 1957 when it was WR Harry Babcock from San Francisco.

Players being selected with the ‘Wildcat’ solely in mind – We all know the NFL is a copycat league so a lot teams will be trying to find versatile players who could run the “Wildcat” formation.  Teams on Saturday and Sunday will be looking to draft mobile throwers like WVU’s Pat White and Texas A&M’s Stephen McGee plus former high school quarterbacks (ex. Penn State WR Derrick Williams and TCU’s TE James Casey) with the Wildcat in mind. 

Smart College Graduate Players Wanted – With teams like the Colts, Patriots, and Giants placing an emphasis on getting older high football IQ players, draftees are making a point to graduate before leaving school.  This year there should be a high number of graduates entering the league with their degrees including Penn State WR Deon Butler (BS Criminal Justice).

The “U” will lose it’s first round streak this year – The University of Miami (Fla.) has a had a first round selection for the past 14 years, but recently their program has fallen on hard times.  Without a player graded higher than the second or third round, the “U’s” miraculous streak that started with All-American defensive tackle Warren Sapp being selected No. 12 overall by Tampa Bay in 1995 will be over.

 

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)

2009 NFL Draft – Mock Draft v2.0

(Philadelphia, Pa) – Alright I am trying another stab at my “Mock” now that Jay Cutler has been sent packing to the Bears, Pro Days reports are trickling in and all evaluators are back from NFL Meetings.

1. Detroit Lions – QB Matt Stafford, Georgia (Jr)

Record: 0-16 | Needs: QB, OT, CB, S, DE

The buzz around Stafford ending up with the Lions continues daily.  The young quarterback had a good private workout for the team and all indications are unless the Lions get into the Jay Cutler sweepstakes that Stafford will be standing next to the Commissioner Roger Goodell on April 25th.  The Lions are said to be negotiating with Stafford and Baylor offensive tackle Jason Smith to avoid a JaMarcus Russell type holdout.  Stafford (6-3, 236) has shown natural ability (arm and footwork) since his high school days, but he never was able to totally put it together at Georgia. He 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.  Stafford 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.

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

As the Chiefs and malcontent running back Larry Johnson have seemed to be mending their relationship,  they both will need another road-grader to plow the way.  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 – OLB Aaron Curry, Wake Forest (Sr)

Record: 4-12 | Needs: OT, LB, RB, TE, G

The Seahawks will have several options in the first round, but I believe defensive-minded new head coach Jim Mora will look to his side of the ball for help.  With the Seahawks recently trading LB Julian Peterson to the Lions for D-lineman Corey Redding, expect Aaron Curry to step in the starting line-up on Day 1 next to Lofa Tatupu.  Curry (6-3, 247) is a four-year standout who is an aggressive enforcer on the field.  Probably the most NFL ready player in the 2009 Draft, Curry is the 2008 Butkus award-winner, which is a award given annually to college football’s most outstanding linebacker.  He 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. 

5. Cleveland Browns – DE Brian Orakpo, Texas (Sr)

Record: 4-12 | Needs: RB, CB, LB, S

Browns new head coach Eric Mangini is all about getting after the quarterback, so the former Belichick disciple will 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.  Also there are knee concerns as Orakpo missed some time the last two seasons with injuries in that area.  Had a great Pro Day where he ran in the 4.5 range and looked very physical.

6. Cincinnati Bengals – OT Andre Smith, Alabama (Jr)

Record: 4-11-1 | Needs: OL, DE, RB, S

To help in replacing Stacy Andrews (Eagles), the Bengals will select 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 should easily replace Andrews as he 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

The affinity of Raiders owner Al Davis in looking for game-breaking skills and a homerun threat will lead him directly to receiver 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. To me the former Texas Tech quarterback recruit is already a high-level professional receiver and he could possibly have an impactful rookie year on the level of 2007 receiver Marques Colston.  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 – QB Mark Sanchez, USC (Jr)

Record: 5-11 | Needs: WR, OT, CB, QB

It is pretty well known that Jags head coach Jack Del Rio is not enamored with current starting quarterback David Garrard.  If the Jaguars are unable to land Jay Cutler then Sanchez (6’3, 225) seems to be their quarterback of the future.  The All-PAC 10 junior eligible only started 16 games for USC, but he did lead his team to a Rose Bowl win 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 has 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.

9. Green Bay Packers – CB Malcolm Jenkins, Ohio State (Sr)

Record: 6-10 | Needs: LB, DE, S, CB

Though the Packers have drafted some younger players in their secondary recently, you still get the feeling that the replacement of aging corners Charles Woodson and Al Harris is still not in house.  With former Buckeye AJ Hawk already on the roster, the Packers get another solid player from Ohio State.  Jenkins (6-1, 201) is a “lockdown” corner, who has a nose for the ball.  As a senior, he won the Thorpe Award as the nation’s top defensive back. He has great quickness and explosion to the ball plus he will provide the versatility that Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers likes in his secondary. Repeatedly battle tested, Jenkins was the leader of the Buckeye secondary that ranked #1 against the pass in ’07.  He was so good that teams tended to thrown away from him. Had 11 career interceptions including returning two for touchdowns versus Penn St in 2007.

10. S.F. 49ers – OLB/DE Aaron Maybin, Penn State (Redshirt Soph)

Record: 7-9 | Needs: QB, OL, OLB, DE

The Niners have multiple needs, but I have a feeling that the defensive side of the ball will be where new head coach Mike Singletary will go with his selection.  For their new 3-4 scheme, the Niners select outside pass rusher Aaron Maybin to play alongside All-Pro middle linebacker Patrick Willis.  Maybin (6-4, 248, 4.67) was a productive defensive end for two seasons in Tom Bradley’s attacking Nittany Lions defensive scheme.  He displayed tenacity and great closing speed, which allowed him to lead the Big Ten with 12 sacks plus he had 20 tackles for a loss in ’08. Though Maybin 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).  Look for Maybin to get bigger and stronger as he matures into his NFL body.

11. Buffalo Bills – RB Chris “Beanie” Wells, Ohio State (Jr)

Record: 7-9 | Needs: DT, RB, DE, TE

With multiple questions abounding about troubled running back Marshawn Lynch and not many backup options. 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.

12. Denver Broncos – DT B.J. Raji, Boston College (Sr)

Record: 8-8 | Needs: RB, OT, LB, CB

New Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels is changing the face of this franchise by adding over 12 free agents this off-season and trading malcontent quarterback Jay Cutler to the Bears. However the young head coach needs a dominant defensive tackle in Vince Wilfork’s mold to build his defense around.  With the selection of Raji (6-2, 337) the Broncos will get their two-gap protector who they will funnel their defense through.  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.  A possible failed drug test at the NFL Combine may send Raji down in the draft.

 13. Washington Redskins – DE Everette Brown, Florida State (Jr)

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 add quarterback Jay Cutler, the Redskins will continue remaking their defense by adding Brown.  The former FSU star will team with NFL marquee free agent signee Albert Haynesworth to strengthen a weak defensive line.  With DE Phillip Daniels almost ending a solid pro career, Brown (6-4, 252, 4.65) should be able to make a difference in helping the ‘Skins get more sacks.  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.

14. New Orleans Saints – WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, Maryland (Jr)

Record: 8-8 | Needs: LB, DE, S, OL, WR

The Saints head coach Sean Payton is an offensive coach, who loves to add weapons at every opportunity.  The Saints receiving core has solid veteran Marques Colston, but more is needed as former first rounder Bobby Meachem has been a colossal bust.   Payton will grab the draft’s fastest moving receiver in 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. 

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.  With an edict of win now on GM Rick Smith and head coach Gary Kubiak, Texans select Davis (6-0, 204, 4.42).  The All Big 10 corner is an athletic, aggressive, and sticky cover-corner, who should help lessen any holdout attempts by Robinson. 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 sweepstakes, the J-E-T-S shock the world by reaching for 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

The Bears became the other end of the trade Jay Cutler deal.  Now 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 defensive-minded head coach Raheem Morris grabs a receiver to 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 along with Texas Tech’s Michael Crabtree.  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.  With an additional 270 yards on punt returns including one touchdown with an 11.7 average plus 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, 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 – OT Eben Britton, Arizona (Jr)

Record: 9-6-1 | Needs: OT, TE, RB, S, WR

I know you want a playmaker on offense with your first round pick Birds fans, but that will have to wait until pick #28.  Given the Eagles track record and their need to replace stalwart bookend tackles Jon Runyan and William Thomas, a tackle seems to be the obvious pick. 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.  With O-line guru Juan Castille pushing him look for this big athletic O-lineman to push disappointing ’06 pick Winston Justice and add depth to an area that Andy Reid always loves to build up.

22. Minnesota Vikings – WR Percy Harvin, Florida (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.  The Vikings 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. The only question mark about the diminutive receiver/running back is whether he is durable enough to take an NFL pounding.

23. N.E. Patriots  – ILB James Laurinaitis, Ohio State (Sr)

Record: 11-5 | Needs: LB, CB, TE, OL, RB

The Patriots continue the overhaul of their linebackers with the selection of Ohio State’s big man in the middle, Jim  Laurinaitis (6-2, 240).  The three-time All-American who has a trophy case full of awards from his intensity inspired play (Bronko Nagurski Award – ’06, Dick Butkus Award – ’07 and the Lott Trophy as best all-around defensive player in ’08) should be a natural fit in the Patriots attacking scheme. Laurinaitis is a smart and instinctive football player, who through film study always seems to be in the right position.  Known for being the son of pro wrestling legend Joe “Road Warrior Animal” Laurinaitis, the younger “Animal” is a ferocious tackler and is always looking to deliver a blow.  In his historic career college football career this perennial All Big 10 selection collected 366 tackles.

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 – OLB Clay Matthews, Southern California (Sr)

Record: 11-5 | Needs: CB, OL, LB, TE

The Ravens find OLB Bart Scott’s replacement with the selection of Clay Matthews (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; 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). NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said of Matthews, “What I would tell you (about Matthews) is he’s got a healthy chip on his shoulder. His dad, his uncle, his brother — everybody played big-time football and this kid didn’t get a scholarship offer to USC. He will outwork people”.  Recently ran a 4.57 forty at USC’s Pro Day.

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. Philadelphia Eagles (from Panthers) – RB Knowshon Moreno, Georgia (Soph)

Record: 9-6-1 | Needs: OT, TE, RB, S, WR

Moving away from their normal hum-drum “Take a Lineman” draft, the Eagles 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 and has great 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.  With the one-two punch of Moreno and Westbrook, the field will seem a lot more open to McNabb.  Also possibly watch for former Oklahoma State TE Brandon Pettigrew at this spot.

29. New York Giants – CB D.J. Moore, Vanderbilt (Jr)

Record: 12-4 | Needs: WR, CB, S, OT

After cutting safety Sammy Knight and CB Sam Madison, the G-Men get former first rounder Aaron Ross some help.  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 83 tackles, 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 as shown by his 13 tackles versus ‘Bama in ’07.  Moore 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 – DT Peria Jerry, Ole Miss (Sr)

Record: 13-3 | Needs: WR, DT, CB, C

Titans’ head coach Jeff Fisher and new defensive coordinator Chuck Cecil will use their number one pick on big run-stuffing (6-2 300) defensive tackle Jerry to replaced Redskins free agent signee Albert Haynesworth.  The All-SEC performer has been a riser in the draft process after a  2008 season that saw him SEC defender of the week four times and having a standout week at the Senior Bowl. The pocket-collapsing big man is very quick off the ball and at times is difficult to handle even by two O-linemen.  Jerry can play one or two gap protection, but scouts are definitely watching his game tapes as he was a bit inconsistent at times during his Ole’ Miss career.  Look for Jerry,  an older age player at 24 years old, to be on the field early in his pro career.

31. Arizona Cardinals – CB Alphonso Smith, Wake Forest (Sr)

Record: 9-7 | Needs: OL, FS, RB, CB, DT

Throughout the 2008 season, the Cardinals had problems on defense finishing with an NFL ranking of 19th in total defense during the regular season.  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 may just sit and wait to see who falls to them.  But they need 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. After making a comeback from a broken leg in 2006, 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 at the combine.

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

DE Tyson Jackson, 6’5″ 291 LSU

DE Michael Johnson, 6’7″ 247 Georgia Tech

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)

 

 

 

2009 NFL Draft Order

The 2008 NFL Regular Season is over and the lowly Detroit Lions (0-16) are on the clock.  At least the Lions will have their options for the 2009 NFL Draft’s first player selected (Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford, Georgia QB Mathew Stafford, Texas Tech WR Michael Crabtree, USC LB Rey Maualuga, and others) . 

2009 NFL Draft Order

1)   Detroit        0-16    
2)   St. Louis        2-14  
3)   Kansas City  2-14    
4)   Seattle        4-12    
5)   Cleveland      4-12   
6)   Cincinnati     4-11-1 
7)   Oakland        5-11   
8)   Jacksonville  5-11    
9)   Green Bay      6-10  
10)   Buffalo         7-9    
11)   San Francisco  7-9  
12)   Houston           8-8  
13)    Denver          8-8     
14)   Washington   8-8 
15)    New Orleans   8-8 
16)    San Diego   8-8  
17)   New York Jets   9-7 
18)    Chicago     9-7  
19)    Tampa Bay 9-7 
21)     Detroit (from Dallas)  9-7
20)     Arizona      9-7  
22)     Philadelphia    9-6-1 
23)     Minnesota   10-6 
24)     New England   11-5
25)     Atlanta        11-5 
26)      Miami          11-5 
27)     Baltimore    11-5 
28)     Philadelphia (from Carolina)  12-4 
29)   Indianapolis   12-4 
30)   Pittsburgh 12-4  
31)    New York Giants 12-4 
32)   Tennessee  13-3