1) DETROIT LIONS> MATTHEW STAFFORD, QB, GEORGIA- With Sam Bradford returning to Oklahoma for another season, Stafford holds on to the top selection. Sanchez has closed the gap between him and Stafford, but I still think that Stafford is the better selection. Stafford has a stronger arm and he has greatly improved his decision making this season. Sanchez is more of a project, he has significant injury issues, and he tends to make the stupid decisions that Stafford would make last year.
2) ST. LOUIS RAMS> ANDRE SMITH, OT, ALABAMA- I don‚Äôt see any reason to change this pick as a result of Smith‚Äôs issues at Alabama. They don‚Äôt seem like the kind of behavioral issues that would seriously hurt his draft stock and the Rams are still looking to beef up the O-Line, which they failed to do last year by missing out on Jake Long.
3) KANSAS CITY CHIEFS> BRIAN ORAKPO, DE, TEXAS- Orakpo has recently passed up Michael Johnson to become my top ranked defensive end. He will be able to fill the hole created when the Chiefs disposed of Jared Allen. Orakpo has a fantastic work ethic and has greatly improved his pass rush. Originally I suspected that the Chiefs might go with either Bradford or Stafford here, but now that Stafford is off the board and Bradford isn‚Äôt entering the draft, I don‚Äôt see them going with a quarterback with this pick.
4) SEATTLE SEAHAWKS> MICHAEL CRABTREE, WR, TEXAS TECH- This is a tough pick. The Seahawks could go in many different directions here. The first option that will at least cross the minds of Seahawks‚Äô management is a quarterback. Matt Hasselbeck is getting old and a new coach may want to go in his own direction. However, I really don‚Äôt see Mark Sanchez as being worthy of the selection. The Seahawks could also go with Michael Oher who could play either guard or tackle for them. There are other options that will definitely be discussed before the draft but I think they will go with Crabtree. Crabtree is by far the best receiver available and he would absolutely bolster a poor receiving squad in Seattle.
5) CLEVELAND BROWNS> MALCOLM JENKINS, DB, OHIO STATE- This is an easy pick if Jenkins is still on the board when the Browns pick at five. If Jenkins is gone then Vontae Davis would most likely be the pick but it isn‚Äôt as much of a lock. Jenkins is fast and is a great cover corner. He is also versatile enough to play safety in the NFL as well. Don‚Äôt look too far into this pick. It will be Jenkins.
6) CINCINATTI BENGALS> EVERETTE BROWN, DE, FLORIDA STATE- Everette Brown makes a huge jump in my mock this week which really isn‚Äôt too much of a shock due to the strength of the defensive end class this season. While Brown still has not passed up Michael Johnson on my rankings, he is the better fit for the Bengals as I continue to look at the selection. Both Brown and Johnson are phenomenal pass rushers, with Johnson having the edge, but Brown is the much better run stopper. Brown has a more established inside move, while Johnson‚Äôs only edge may come in preventing the run to the outside.(previous selection was Michael Johnson, DE, Georgia Tech)
7) OAKLAND RAIDERS> EUGENE MONROE, OT, VIRGINIA- Monroe is not the best offensive lineman available at this point but he is a much better fit for Oakland than Michael Oher. Monroe will be able to jump in and start at left tackle for the Raiders, where I still think Oher needs some work. I do consider Oher to be the better long term prospect.
8) JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS> AARON CURRY, LB, WAKE FOREST- Aaron Curry will fit well in Jacksonville. He may not be as goo of a fit as Rey Maualuga but Curry is the better overall player, and with the 8th overall selection you usually want to value skill over the better fit (if it isn‚Äôt that big of a gap like this scenario).(previous selection was Vontae Davis, CB, Illinois)
9) GREEN BAY PACKERS> VONTAE DAVIS, CB, ILLINOIS- This should be a difficult decision for Green Bay, but not because they have a lack of options. Rey Maualuga and Vontae Davis would both be fantastic picks should the Packers decide to go in that direction. Teaming with Nick Barnett and A.J. Hawk, Maualuga would complete a fantastic linebacker trio. Davis however, fills a more pressing need and he is a solid value pick at nine. Davis has fantastic speed and very good size. He is an exceptional cover corner, and should add some much needed youth to the aging Green Bay secondary.(previous selection was Aaron Curry, OLB, Wake Forest)
10) SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS> MARK SANCHEZ, QB, USC- Sanchez made a fantastic decision when he declared himself eligible for the 2009 NFL draft. Sanchez is a lock to be the 1st or 2nd quarterback taken in the draft. Sanchez has a good arm and solid accuracy. He has good vision down the field and shows a lot of promise in every area. He does have two major downsides though. The first is that he has multiple injury issues including a suspect knee. The second problem is that he frequently makes stupid decisions, very similar to the mistakes Matthew Stafford made last season. That is an area that would have improved significantly with a return to Southern Cal, but there is a good chance he would have dropped to a later round. San Francisco could be hitting it big here with Sanchez but the injury concerns are still there it isn‚Äôt guaranteed that he will make better decisions in a league that capitalizes on them.(previous selection was Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma. Bradford will not be entering the draft)
11) BUFFALO BILLS> BRANDON PETTIGREW, TE – Pettigrew is a little bit of a reach at 11 but he fits a need in Buffalo, and he has the talent to warrant the selection. Pettigrew has had some character issues which hurt his draft stock, but the fact that Jermaine Gresham is returning to Oklahoma will cause Pettigrew to jump several spots. Don‚Äôt be surprised if the Bills trade down to a later spot where they will still be able to snag Pettigrew. (previous selection was Jermaine Gresham, TE, Oklahoma. Gresham will not be entering the draft)
12) DENVER BROCOS> B.J. RAJI, DT, BOSTON COLLEGE- The Broncos need help at the defensive tackle position and with Gerald McCoy returning to Oklahoma, I expect Denver to go with Raji. Raji is a decent fit for the system that I expect Josh McDaniels to bring with him. Raji has some behavioral issues but McDaniels has been known to work with troubled players in the past.(previous selection was Gerald McCoy, DT, Oklahoma. McCoy will not be entering the draft)
13) WASHINGTON REDSKINS> MICHAEL JOHNSON, DE, GEORGIA TECH- Michael Johnson is the best pass rushing defensive end available by a large amount. Jason Taylor‚Äôs future is in doubt and the Redskins have to improve their pass rush. The Redskins would like to get B.J. Raji with this pick but I doubt he will fall past the Broncos.(previous selection was Aaron Maybin, DE/OLB, Penn State
14) NEW ORLEANS SAINTS> REY MAUALUGA, ILB, USC- If the Saints retain Jonathan Vilma then they will lose this pick to the Jets. Therefore, if the Saints get rid of Vilma, which is what I expect, then they should go to the linebacker position with the pick.(previous selection was James Laurinaitis, ILB, Ohio State)
15) HOUSTON TEXANS> WILLIAM MOORE, S, MISSOURI- The Texans would have loved to get Taylor Mays with this selection but he will be returning to USC. That leaves the Texans in a tough situation. They could take William Moore, which is what I expect them to do at this point, but Moore is not as a physical a safety as they would like to acquire. Houston could also go with Patrick Chung here, but Chung begins to be a little too much of a reach at 15. The Texans might go with Aaron Maybin, but Maybin projects to be more of a linebacker in the NFL. Maybin looks to be the more likely 2nd option at this point behind Moore.(previous selection was Taylor Mays, S, USC. Taylor Mays will not be entering the draft)
16) SAN DIEGO CHARGERS> SEN‚ÄôDERRICK MARKS, DT, AUBURN- Marks really benefits from a couple players returning to school for an extra year. The Chargers on the other hand, lose out. Terrence Cody is returning to Alabama which will cause the Chargers to settle for Marks. Marks is going to need to get a little bigger to adequately fill the Chargers‚Äô nose tackle need. (previous selection was Rey Maualuga, ILB, USC)
17) NEW YORK JETS> JAMES LAURINAITIS, ILB, OHIO STATE- This is the best case scenario for Jets who will be hoping that either Rey Maualuga or James Laurinatis will fall to them at 17. Laurinaitis will work next to David Harris, and one of the biggest plusses to Laurinaitis is that he doesn‚Äôt project to need to much time adjusting to the NFL game. (previous selection was Brandon Spikes, ILB, Florida. Brandon Spikes is not entering the draft)
18) CHICAGO BEARS> DARRIUS HEYWARD-BEY, WR, MARYLAND- The Bears would love to grab Mark Sanchez or Matthew Stafford with this pick but neither of those two players will fall to the 18th pick. If Stafford or Sanchez would fall past the 49ers then I would expect the Bears to make an effort to trade up to get one of the two, possibly to Buffalo‚Äôs selection. If they do stay with the pick I would expect them to go with Heyward-Bey who is the best remaining receiver. He isn‚Äôt as much of a playmaker as Jeremy Maclin but he is a much more polished receiver and is rumored to run the 40 in under 4.3 seconds.
19) TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS> AARON MAYBIN, DE/OLB, PENN STATE- Maybin falls a little bit in my 2nd mock to the Tampa Bay Bucs. Maybin, if he goes to the Bucs, will be making the switch to linebacker where his speed off the edge will be a major weapon. Maybin needs some work but his potential almost guarantees him a first round selection. (previous selection was Brian Cushing)
20) DETROIT LIONS (from the Dallas Cowboys)> MICHAEL OHER, OL, MISSISSIPPI- The Lions receive this pick as a result of their mid-season trade involving Roy Williams. Michael Oher is a great value selection at 20 in addition to being a very good fit for the Lions. Oher has the versatility to play either tackle or guard for the Lions, however I expect him to play left tackle for them. This is not a difficult selection if Oher falls this far.
21) PHILADELPHIA EAGLES> JASON SMITH, OT, BAYLOR- Some consider Jason Smith to be the best offensive tackle available in the draft, I don‚Äôt agree at all. At best he is the 4th best available lineman, which means he is a very solid prospect. Winston Justice is not working out for the Eagles and Smith should fit in well.
22) MINNESOTA VIKINGS> ALPHONSO SMITH, CB, WAKE FOREST- Smith is a very smart pick for the Vikings and looks to fit in very well with their system. He is a great tackler on the outside and is a very good cover corner as well. The other option being thrown around is the Vikings addressing their offensive line, but I don‚Äôt agree with that in this scenario. There isn‚Äôt an offensive tackle worth taking at this point and a great value pick is the only way an offensive tackle could be justified with this selection.
23)NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS> D.J. MOORE, CB, VANDERBILT- The Patriots seriously need help in the secondary. William Moore will be gone due to the fact that Taylor Mays is returning to USC. Moore doesn‚Äôt look to be a conversion player, (meaning he won‚Äôt be moving to safety) but Moore will provide much needed depth to the Patriots‚Äô secondary. (previous selection was William Moore, S, Missouri)
24) ATLANTA FALCONS> PERIA JERRY, DT, MISSISSIPPI- The Falcons have two main options with this pick. The first is to go with Tyson Jackson, a defensive lineman who looks to be ready to move to defensive tackle in the NFL. Jackson, however, does not look to be a good fit for the Falcons system. Because of that I expect them to go in the direction of Peria Jerry, a defensive tackle more fit for the Atlanta system. (previous selection was Ndamukong Suh, DT, Nebraska. Ndamukong Suh is not entering the draft)
25) MIAMI DOLPHINS> BRIAN CUSHING, OLB, USC- Cushing is a fantastic fit in the Dolphins‚Äô defensive system. Cushing is a very good presence in the locker room and always seems to be in the right position. Miami is a very good fit for Cushing as well. (previous selection was Terrence Cody, DT, Alabama. Terrence Cody is not entering the draft)
26) BALTIMORE RAVENS> JEREMY MACLIN, WR, MISSOURI- Maclin is a fantastic value at 27 for the Ravens. Maclin is a very explosive player and he should fit very well into Baltimore‚Äôs offense. Derrick Mason is getting old and it is still unclear how Mark Clayton is going to turn out. Maclin, even if he doesn‚Äôt pan out as a receiver, is a phenomenal special teams player and is a player that opposing defenses have to plan for.
27) PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (from the Carolina Panthers)> KNOWSHON MORENO, RB, GEORGIA- Originally, the Cardinals were going to be selecting prior to the Eagles second selection, but due to the fact that the Cardinals have reached the Super Bowl the Eagles may still have the opportunity to grab Moreno with their second selection in the round. The Eagles‚Äô rushing game struggled last season finishing 22nd in the NFL. Brian Westbrook is still just 29 years old but he continued to have injury problems, missing 2 games and being limited in multiple others. Moreno is a fantastic value at 27 and is the best running back available in this year‚Äôs draft. (previous selection was Patrick Chung, S, Oregon)
28)INDIANAPOLIS COLTS> TYSON JACKSON, DL, LSU- The Colts need some help on the defensive line and I think that Jackson is not only a good value pick here, but he also will fit into the Colts‚Äô system. Jackson is a lot like Adam Carriker from a few years ago. Jackson, while not as skilled as Carriker, is a defensive end who could possibly move inside if he is in the right 4-3 system. I think that if the Colts select Jackson they will end up moving him inside to fill the massive hole they have at defensive tackle. (previous selection was B.J. Raji, DT, Boston College)
29) NEW YORK GIANTS> KENNY BRITT, WR, RUTGERS- Plaxico Burress is most likely done as a New York Giant and his absence has shown. The Giants need a big target downfield and Kenny Britt is that guy. Percy Harvin is a possibility here but he doesn‚Äôt fit in as well considering the Giants already have Sinorice Moss and Steve Smith. Britt has the ability to get down the field and he has solid hands.
30) TENNESSEE TITANS> PERCY HARVIN, WR, FLORIDA- The Titans still need to give Vince Young or Kerry Collins some help in the wide receiver department. Harvin is quick and very agile. He has great speed and is often able to make something out of nothing. Harvin does have some injury issues that have him behind Jeremy Maclin. Harvin should be a great player to have when Young gets back to being the starter in Tennessee.
31) ARIZONA CARDINALS> LeSEAN McCOY, RB, PITTSBURGH- McCoy is slipping into the back end of the first round for this mock due to the reality that Knowshon Moreno will not fall to the Cardinals at 31. Edgerrin James will not be in Arizona next season and the Cardinals need someone to team with Tim Hightower. McCoy is much more agile than Hightower and has a significant edge in speed.(previous selection was Knowshon Moreno, RB, Georgia)
32) PITTSBURGH STEELERS> MAX UNGER, OL, OREGON- I have the Steelers‚Äô selection changing from Duke Robinson to Max Unger. Unger‚Äôs stock has been soaring as of late and I don‚Äôt expect it to stop. One fascinating part of Unger‚Äôs game is that he can play any position on the offensive line. His primary position at Oregon was center but he did play every offensive line position there. He is an extraordinarily intelligent player and is just an overall fantastic athlete for his size. This versatility will prove to be valuable in supporting the Steelers‚Äô offensive line in years to come.
As for the best case scenario, it has dimmed slightly. I still think that it is possible that Michael Oher will fall to them. If that happens, I would be ecstatic to snatch him up. Also, Michael Johnson‚Äôs stock continues to fall, and while I don‚Äôt see him falling to the end of the first round right now I wouldn‚Äôt totally rule it out. Either of those selections would be glorious for the Steelers.
As for the second round, regardless of who the Steelers take in the first round, if they were able to steal Duke Robinson (which is a best case scenario but still not impossible) then it would be a great selection. The unfortunate part at this point is that many junior defensive ends have returned to school which has thinned out the selection at the position, and caused the possibility to get a fantastic D-End value in the second round to go down.
Therefore, my best case scenario for the Steelers right now is defensive end Michael Johnson in the first round, offensive guard Duke Robinson in the second round, and center Alex Mack in the third round. In addition, I have heard rumors that the Steelers are interested in the possibility of Conredge Collins in the later rounds. This is still very early speculation, just something to think about.(previous selection was Duke Robinson, OG, Oklahoma)