Here we go, folks. You know the drill.
FYI, 3/4 picks are unsettled, as are the 27-29, 31/32 selections. Seattle’s 24th pick is New England’s via Branch trade.
1. Oakland – QB Jamarcus Russell, LSU
You know what they say: If you don’t have a franchise QB, you better not pass on a potential one. Russell’s physical attributes are through the roof, with an enormous frame(6’6″ 260) and an arm that will undoubtedly be the strongest in the NFL the minute he gets drafted. He’s made gradual strides every year as a starter at LSU, and he really showed off his polish late in his senior year. His biggest knock has been his decision making, however, and he’s always been prone to making supremely boneheaded plays. The reward is worth the risk, though.
2. Detroit – QB Brady Quinn, Notre Dame
Detroit is a major seller with this pick, but if the Lions stand pat, the Lions have to take Oakland’s rout and go with Quinn. People have inexplicably soured on him recently, but most of it is unjustified. The fact is, ND never had very much talent to begin with, and Quinn has done a teriffic job in his situation. Physically, he’s prototypical: 6’4″, 225, can wing it to any spot on the field, and he’s hardly a statue in the pocket. He’s done a tremendous job of limiting his mistakes, as he’s a much more careful passer than Russell. The tutelage of Charlie Weis can’t hurt his stock either, as he’s helped him become a very cerebral QB. Detroit may be set at QB for now, but their future definitely needs to be addressed.
*3. Cleveland – DT Alan Branch, Michigan
In what was supposed to be a year of improvement in Cleveland, Crennel and his staff were struck hard by injuries and regression to their players. The offense was in shambles, and the defense wasn’t much better. There were some bright spots, however, including last years first round pick, LB/DE Kamerion Wimbley, who addressed a major pass rushing need(11 sacks) in Crennel’s evolving 3-4. Now, it’s time to shore up their front 3, and Branch is a huge step forward – figuratively and literally. At 6’6″ 330, he’s a mammoth space eater in the middle, and he has extensive experience playing outside in the 3-4 at Michigan as well. Branch is also amazingly quick for a man his size, having also played running back on his high school team.
*4. Tampa Bay – WR Calvin Johnson, Georgia Tech
Without question, CJ is the #1 talent in the entire draft. He’s 6’5″, 235 and possesses unfair speed and leaping ability for a man his size. And unlike most WR prospects, he isn’t prone to mental lapses or dropped balls. He’s extremely polished for a college player, which is a must for the Bucs, since they need someone who will make an immediate impact. Joey Galloway has resurrected his career on one side of the field, but former 1st rounder Michael Clayton has been a total bust, and there aren’t any other viable receiving options on the team. A DE like Gaines Adams or Jamaal Andersonc could also be an option for the Bucs here, with Simeon Rice on the outs and no other pass rushers to speak of.
5. Arizona – OT Joe Thomas, Wisconsin
Probably the biggest slam dunk of the draft, the Cardinals will be furiously humping Thomas’ leg if falls to them here. The Cards offensive line woes have been well documented since the birth of Christ, and Thomas is a step in the right direction. He has been dominating Big Ten opposition for the past two years, and he’s equally adept at blocking the run and pass. Like Tampa Bay, expect the Cardinals to go after a pass rusher if their guy doesn’t fall to them.
6. Washington – DE Jamaal Anderson, Arkansas
Andre Carter performed well in very little spurts, but Phillip Daniels has been awful on the other side of the Dline for the Redskins this past year. The Redskins demise this season was a bit surprising, and bringing a premier pass rusher like Anderson is a must to shore things up. At 6’6″ 280, Anderson has outstanding size and athleticism to compliment his eye-popping production in the SEC this season(65 tkl, 20 tfl, 14 sacks).
7. Minnesota – DE Gaines Adams, Clemson
You’ve heard about it by now: Former 1st rounde DE Kenechi Udeze, despite starting every game, failed to record a single sack for the Vikings this past season. Into the dryer with him. And while the Vikings do have another first rounder in Erasmus James on the other side, that shouldn’t deter them from trying to solidify their pass rush. They stopped the run at a historical clip this season, but they were awful against the pass – and their lack of pressure had a lot to do with it. Adams has been brilliant for Clemson, but he doesn’t quite have the elite size(6’5″ 260) that would have assured him of top 5 status. The Vikings will reap the benefits with him.
8. Houston – RB Adrian Peterson, Oklahoma
Let’s hope Houston is smart enough to not pass on a great running back this time. Jabs aside, Peterson is a perfect fit for Kubiak’s zone blocking scheme, and had he not been injured this past season, landing him here would have been once thought to be a pipe dream. He’s got all the tools you look for in an elite RB, and you know he’s ready having dominated the college ranks since his freshman year.
9. Miami – DT Amobi Okoye, Louisville
Miami could use a wholesale overhaul on defense, but trying to improve the interior of their defensive front would be a nice start. The Dolphins current batch of DTs have a combined age of about 1,000 and haven’t played very well, so let’s kill two birds with one stone and draft the outstanding Okoye, who also doubles as the drafts youngest player at the age of 20. He didn’t leave school early, either – he’s just that smart. On top of his excellence outside of football, he also displays plenty of athleticism and he absolutely dominated for Louisville this season – registering 15 TFLs and 8 sacks. A very underrated prospect.
10. Atlanta – S Laron Landry, LSU
The Falcons tried resolving their secondary woes by bringing in Chris Crocker and Lawyer Milloy last offseason, but that clearly didn’t answer any of their problems. They still looked slow defending the pass, and they still lacked a presence in the middle of the field. Enter Landry, who is arguably the best safety prospect we’ve seen since Sean Taylor. A 4-year starter for the Tigers with a sparkling resume, few players can step in and make as big an impact as he can on defense. Unlike most safeties, he isn’t just a headhunter, flashing plenty of range.
11. San Francisco – CB Leon Hall, Michigan
The 49ers flirt with the idea of picking a receiver like Dwayne Jarrett here, but Mike Nolan plays it smart and sticks to his guns on defense. The 49ers made significant strides this season, flirting with a division title but ultimately falling short. However, they’re still in the shallow end of the talent pool, and they’d like to bring in instant impact players who can help them win right away. Leon Hall fits the bill. Arguably the nations premier corner this past season, Hall isn’t the best athlete to ever play the position, but he’s as technical as they come and doesn’t shy away from defending the run.
12. Buffalo – LB Patrick Willis, Ole Miss
On the surface, Buffalo’s linebacking corps doesn’t seem to be a need position. But with London Fletcher on the way out, and Takeo Spikes not being the player he once was, a jolt of energy is needed with this group. Some think it’s too high to take a linebacker here, especially a middle ‘backer. To heck with that. Willis combines ideal measurables(6’2″, 240, 4.6) with dominating production on the football field, having won the Butkus Trophy his senior year. He excels in both run support and dropping back into coverage, gives you plenty of position versatility, and he’s the sort of kid who has a good head on his shoulders and you never have to worry about.
13. St Louis – WR Ted Ginn, Ohio State
Surprise. The Rams, as usual, are in desperate need of defensive help. However, at this stage of the first round, the most valued defenders are already taken, and the best position available – linebacker – can be addressed in the next round thanks to a girth of depth. So the Rams get creative and pick Ted Ginn, whom some would argue is the drafts mosts explosive player. At 6′ 180, he’s built exactly like current Rams greats Ike Bruce and Torry Holt, and he offers even more speed. Bruce performed valiantly this season, but he’s on his last legs and must be replace. Even the great Torry Holt is on the wrong side of 30 as well. Grooming an impact replacement is a must, and noone offers more potential then Ginn. He also gives them a much needed return threat to boot.
14. Carolina – OT Levi Brown, Penn State
Carolina would love to land Patrick Willis or a QB here, but the former is taken and the latter is unlikely to come to fruition. As such, they will focus on their shoddy offensive line and draft Brown, a mammoth tackle whose been a standout for the Nittany Lions. With Jordan Gross and Brown, the Panthers would have two very solid bookends to format their offense around. Carolina is a well-run football team, so don’t expect them to stray too far from the Oline or Dline when their pick comes up.
15. Pittsburgh – CB Darrelle Revis, Pittsburgh
The Steelers just have to walk out to their own backyard to find their draft pick. A stand out for the hometown Panthers the past three seasons, Revis is an electric athelete whom the Steelers could really use. Ike Taylor was a surprising dud this season, and there was noone else to write home about at cornerback. A solid 6’0 200 lbs, Revis can more than hold his own against bigger wide receivers, and he can run stride for stride with the quicker ones too. He could also be a major contributor as a returnman, which will come in handy once Santonio Holmes becomes a staple in the lineup.
16. Green Bay – DE Quentin Moses, Georgia
Despite finishing 8-8, you’d be hardpressed to find many teams with less talent than the Packers. They could use an upgrade at any number of positions, but they strike gold here and pick the best player available in Moses. Projected to be a top five selection in the preseason, Moses had an underwhelming senior campaign and was vastly outplayed by teammate Charles Johnson this season – another top DE prospect. Regardless, he is sure to remind teams of his talent at the combine and it’s unlikely that he’ll even make it this far for Green Bay. With KGB becoming a non-factor at this stage in his career, the Packers could certainly use a pass-rushing talent like Moses to compliment the stout Aaron Kampman. At 6’5″ 260, his lanky frame has drawn him comparisons to Jason Taylor.
17. Jacksonville – LB Paul Posluszny, Penn State
Jacksonville is a team in a tight spot. There’s a lot of WR talent on the board, but this team absolutely cannot afford to go down that route again. Instead, they turn to linebacker – where Mike Peterson is aging and suddenly injury-prone, and there’s very little to get excited about on the outside. Posluszny is a perfect fit here, and there will be very little
pressure on him playing on a mostly stout defense.
18. Cincinatti – DT Demarcus Tyler, NC State
Tyler is another one of those physical, athletic freaks NC State has decided to unleash upon the NFL. The Bengals biggest problems are on the interior, and Tyler is the sort of pure run-stopper built to eradicate that. He won’t be racking up 10 sacks a season any time soon, but he is a very good penetrator whose pressure can make life easier for their back seven.
19. Tennessee – WR Dwayne Jarrett, USC
Tennessee could really, really use some defensive help, but getting Vince Young a quality target on the outside is also a must. Jarrett may be taken long before their pick comes up, but here’s to saying his poor timed speed has him tumbling down the charts a little bit. The Mike Williams comparison will linger over the 6’5, 220 pounder, but I believe he’ll take his job much more seriously and become the sort of Plaxico-like receiver that VY can lean upon(with all the drops).
20. NY Giants – LB Lawrence Timmons, Florida State
Lavar Arrington has been a total bust for the Giants, and outside of Antonio Pierce, the same can be said for every other linebacker the Giants have on their roster. Timmons is one of my favorite prospects in this draft, emerging from Ernie Sims shadow and making a first-round name for himself as well. He put up a gaudy 19 TFL from his outside spot, and the Giants are desperate for that sort of impact on the edge. He’s fast, he covers a lot of space, and he’s a sure tackler.
21. Denver – RB Marshawn Lynch, Cal
This would be a dream situation for the Broncos, considering Lynch’s talent suggests he’ll be taken earlier. Denver has always been known as a running back factory – seemingly churning out 1000 yard backs with ease and no worries. Their arrogance and unwillingness to find a steady option in the backfield, though, finally caught up with them this past season and neither Tatum or Mike Bell distinguished themselves as a quality starter. Lynch is the total package – he’s got 4.4 speed, and a build similar to that of Lawrence Maroney. Unlike Maroney, Lynch is an outstanding receiver out of the backfield – a necessary trait for the screen-happy Shanahan.
22. Dallas – S Michael Griffin, Texas
The Cowboys stay in Big 12 country and select one of most impressive Longhorns DBs in recent memory. Watching Dallas down the stretch, it’s no secret that their pass defense was their achilles heel. Their FS spot was a revolving door all year, and Roy Williams tailed off considerably. The result was a lot of broken plays and easy deep balls down the middle for the opposition. Griffin can eradicate this with his tremendous speed and agility. He’s the sort of rangy centerfielder that Dallas desperately needs in their defensive backfield, and he’s also an outstanding tackler – having racked up an astonishing 250 tackles his past 2 seasons in Austin.
23. Kansas City – WR Dwayne Bowe, LSU
Through the good times and the bad for KC, there’s always been one constant – their receivers have always been subpar. Even when Kennison was hauling in 1000 yards a season, there still wasn’t a single threat to be afraid of on the outside. Dwayne Bowe is a big(6’3″, 220), muscular receiver in the Terrell Owens mold. He doesn’t have the speed to break the long one, but few are as sure-handed or reliable as he is. And any coach can appreciate his excellent blocking skills, which will come in handy in their all-LJ/all-the-time offense.
24. New England – OT Joe Staley, Central Michigan
If there’s one thing we know about the Patriots, it’s that they go about their business in their own unique way, and they are very particular about who they pick. They’re also very cap-conscious, which means you can forget about them spending 8 million or so dollars on a rookie linebacker or wide receiver here. So, they attack the offensive line again after the
successful Logan Mankins experiment, and draft another midmajor stud in Joe Staley. Unlike most offensive linemen, Staley is one hell of an athlete. At 300 lbs, this fella runs a legitimate sub 4.8-40. You think it may not matter much, but opponents will have a lot of trouble beating the nimble Staley off the edge. If there has been one spot on New England’s
Oline, it’s been RT, where they had a revolving door of inepereince with Kaczur and O’Callaghan. The Patriots do their own thing and solidify their offensive line with this small school stud.
25. NY Jets – CB Marcus McCauley, Fresno State
Two words: Andre Dyson. He is awful, and there’s no doubt that finding another corner is a must. They have two decent ones in Barrett in Justin Miller, but their consistency is still very spotty. McCauley, based on his physical tools alone, looks like a can’t-miss prospect: 6’1″, 205 with sub 4.4 speed. However, his senior season left a lot to be desired, and he was even benched on Senior Night. The talent is there, though, and the Jets will benefit greatly if he’s able to tap into it. It’s a risk worth taking at this spot.
26. Philadelphia – S Reggie Nelson, Florida
Jackpot. Philly had a lot of problems covering the middle of the field this season, with both Lewis and Considine taking shifts at sucking it up. Brian Dawkins could only be in so many places once, and he aint no spring chicken either. Reggie Nelson would be a good fit in Philly, where he could be brought along slowly and avoid running into a rookie wall. His talent speaks for itself: He was the star defender of Florida’s national title team, and few safeties show the range that he does. I’d like to call him a taller, lesser-tackler than Ed Reed.
27. New Orleans – LB Buster Davis, Florida State
New Orleans will obviously be thinking defense in this draft, and they could use some young talent at each level of defense. Looking for a CB and getting Fred Thomas off the field ASAP will probably be priority #1, but I think the Saints will play it safe and go with the sure thing in Buster Davis. You’ll be immediately reminded of London Fletcher when you see the short, stubby and tenacious linebacker play. He’s great in the box and he might be the surest tackler in the draft, but his coverage game needs a lot of work. Fujita and Shanle have been fine on the outside, but Simoneau shouldn’t be starting so Buster will take care of that.
28. New England – S Eric Weddle, Utah
Rodney Harrison is seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, and there is just a bunch of loose change running around at safety for New England right now. Eric Weddle will come as a surprise to some, but I think he is a classic New England pick. His physical attributes aren’t overwhelming, but they’re on par with all of the other available prospects, and you simply can’t ignore the game-changing presence he’s provided for the Utes. He also has vast experience at cornerback, which is another position the Patriots could use some help at. Here’s to saying Weddle will become a quick fan favorite – whereever he’s drafted.
29. Baltimore – OG Justin Blalock, Texas
The Ravens have glaring holes on the right side of their line, where Pashos and Vincent have been less than stellar. On talent alone, Blalock is probably a top 20 pick. He’s been a marvelous player for Texas, starting all four years and dominating his opponent regularly. He’s played a lot of RT for the ‘Horns, which is a big plus, but he’ll probably be a RG in the pros. He’s mobile, he can pull, and bringing in some solid Olinemen like him is the first step in getting the Ravens offense out of the stone age.
30. San Diego – WR Sidney Rice, South Carolina
The Chargers have few holes, but a gamebreaking WR is something that’s been clearly missing for a long time. They have a lot of cute projects like Vincent Jackson and Malcolm Floyd, but bringing in a legitimate #1 wide out to compliment Gates is a must. A lot of people are higher on Rice, but I think this is right around where he should go. He has all the tools to
eventually be a regular 1,000 yard receiver in this league, but I didn’t see very much I liked out of him in his sophmore season. Regardless, he’s 6’4″ target with 4.4 speed and he always uses his hands to catch the ball. If he can work on getting stronger and more focused, he’ll be a huge steal here.
31. Indianapolis – WR Robert Meachem, Tennessee
Let the rich get richer, shall we? Indy has needs on defense, but their postseason run has shown that little things like a healthy Bob Sanders can make a huge difference for the D as a whole. They could definitely use some bulk at linebacker, but that can wait until the next round. With all that said, they go with the best player available(at least in my book) in
Meachem. Meachem had a jaw-dropping junior year for the Vols, racking up 1300 yards and 11 TDs while averaging over 18 YPC. That’s right, 18. You’ve got to love his size(6’3″ 210) and speed(4.45) combination too. Harrison can’t play forever and there’s virtually no depth after you get past him and Wayne. Meachem could be groomed for a year or two and eventually give Manning a great #2 option once Marv moves on.
32. Chicago – DE Fe’esago Fepulea’i, Samoa
Chicago’s defense isn’t as full-proof as you might think. They tended to be pretty spotty against the run at times and even looked a tad soft up front. On the surface, DE doesn’t appear to be a huge need with Ogunleye, Brown and Anderson platooning, but you’d be hardpressed to find a more raw, tantilizing prospect than Fe’esago Fepulea’i here. Fefe is tragically overlooked right now, but you’ll know his name soon enough. At 6’4″ 295 and apparent 4.5 speed, his potential is through the roof. Granted, he has little experience outside of Japanese semi-pro leagues, but a team in Chicago’s position can afford to roll the dice. He may even project to be an inside compliment to Tommie Harris, who could sorely use some relief from the constant double teams he faces.