Published Apr 7, 2009 8:11 PM EST
2009 NFL Mock Draft
1. Detroit Lions - Matthew Stafford, QB, Georgia
One of the first things Jim Schwartz expressed when being hired as the new Detroit Lions coach was that the team needed to finally find a replacement for Bobby Layne. Layne was the Hall of Fame quarterback that lead Detroit to three NFL Championships in the 1950's including it's last one in 1957. Whether he was joking or not, Jim Schwartz is absolutely right. Detroit needs to find a franchise quarterback.
Matthew Stafford has all the tools to be an outstanding pro quarterback. He has an arm that is comparable to that of John Elway's when Elway was in the prime of his career. The downside is Stafford underachieved throughout his college career and is a major risk. Honestly, I wouldn't take him No. 1, but if Stafford develops into the quarterback some pro scouts believe he's capable of being, Detroit will have someone to help it turn it's dismal franchise around.
2. St. Louis Rams - Jason Smith, OT, Baylor
The Rams did a lousy job of keeping it hidden that they wanted Jake Long with their first pick. When Miami came to terms with Jake Long, St. Louis was forced to turn to Chris Long. This year, St. Louis sits in the exact same position they did a year ago and I don't doubt for a minute one of the tackles are coveted by the Rams.
The big argument is which one and the answer is starting to take shape. Andre Smith is currently writing the textbook on what not to do in the pre-draft process and it's going to cost him millions of dollars. Meanwhile, another Smith is just skyrocketing up the boards and he's emerged as a top five player in the draft. Jason Smith has the best technique of any of the offensive lineman in the draft, but he also showed off some strength at the combine by putting up 33 reps on the bench press. He may have been an unknown to some a few months ago, but Jason Smith is now a household name in this year's draft.
3. Kansas City Chiefs - Aaron Curry, LB, Wake Forest
The Kansas City Chiefs made the right move a year ago when they opted to pass on need and take the best player on the board. Glenn Dorsey was the right pick and I think in time that will hold true. One year later and Kansas City can take an impact player or they can go the need route and opt for an offensive lineman. Scott Pioli comes from New England and they've proven they know how to find linebackers one way or another.
Aaron Curry is an amazing athlete and he proved that at the NFL Combine. He was not only the most physically gifted linebacker, but he was probably the most physically gifted player. A potential move to the 3-4 wouldn't effect Curry one bit as he fits any scheme. Drafting Curry would give the Chiefs a player to build their entire defense around. I wouldn't rule out Eugene Monroe because the Scott Pioli, Al Groh, and Todd Haley connection is undeniable and Kansas City will want to make sure Matt Cassel is stays upright as they build their offense around him.
4. Seattle Seahawks - Eugene Monroe, OT, Virginia
Michael Crabtree to Seattle was just to good of a fit to be true. Seattle went out and signed T.J. Houshmandzadeh and that pretty much took Crabtree out of the equation for Seattle. As good as a fit as I believe it would be, it just doesn't seem like a real possibility. The Seahawks can't afford to pay four receivers top dollar and they need to address other positions.
I think Seattle would love to grab Aaron Curry, but I'm not sure they'll get the chance. If they don't then looking at the offensive line is definitely something that suits their best interest. Eugene Monroe is a good, but not a great tackle prospect. A lot of people think he's comparable to Joe Thomas, but I don't quite think he's on that level. He's versatile and can play multiple positions well, but he might truly never be great. However, finding a good tackle is tough and he is by all accounts a good tackle. Seattle would be wise to grab one this high as their offensive line needs to be rebuilt.
5. Cleveland Browns - Brian Orakpo, DE/LB, Texas
The Cleveland Browns biggest concern is getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Last year, they were tied for 30th in the league in sacks. Luckily for the Browns, 2009 has a slew of pass rushers suited for their defense.
I said Brian Orakpo would have workouts off the charts at the Combine and I wasn't kidding. He put up 31 on the bench press and was second in the broad jump. He also ran an impressive 4.70 in the 40 yard dash. He's not just a workout warrior as he has the numbers to back it up. This year, he won the Lombardi award which is given to college football's best defensive lineman. Cleveland could use this pick to find the future cornerstone of their defense and Orakpo has that type of talent.
6. Cincinnati Bengals - B.J. Raji, DT, Boston College
Last year, Cincinnati targeted Sedrick Ellis and they watched as New Orleans traded up in front of them and swiped Ellis away right under their noses. This year, Cincinnati is sitting in the top ten and once again they still need a run stuffing defensive tackle. B.J. Raji certainly fits that description.
The AFC North is built to run the football. Pittsburgh and Baltimore top that list and I'm certain Eric Mangini will try to shift Cleveland to more of a run first football team as well. Cincinnati needs to prepare for that by taking Raji. Andre Smith is still very much in play here despite his off the field antics this Winter, but Raji was dominate at the Senior Bowl and very good at the Combine. You can't overlooked those two big events even with the rumor of a positive test for marijuana.
7. Oakland Raiders - Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech
Everyone wants to say that Al Davis is going to go for the speed receiver first and they could be right. Jeremy Maclin and Darius Heyward-Bey are certainly possibilities, but everyone is when it comes to Al Davis. I might be thinking outside of the box on this one, but I think Michael Crabtree is exactly what Al Davis would want.
Last year, Al Davis went out and signed Javon Walker for top dollar. Walker isn't exactly a house hold name when it comes to speed. In fact, he's more of a go up and get the jump ball type of player. Walker restructured his deal and isn't any longer a viable threat to be a No. 1 receiver. Crabtree is and he does everything else very well except run blazing fast. I think even Al Davis can set aside his admiration for fast receivers and take the best player in the entire draft.
8. Jacksonville Jaguars - Mark Sanchez, QB, Southern California
If you haven't been following the off season that much then this selection might come as a shock to you, but those who've been following the entire draft process have probably picked up that Jacksonville is serious about finding a franchise quarterback.
The Jaguars have done more than their fair share of homework on Mark Sanchez. In fact, Jacksonville has probably shown as much interest in Sanchez as any team has a single player in this entire draft according to whats been getting around. I was very impressed with Sanchez's Pro Day workout and I think given time he'll emerge from this draft as the best quarterback. I don't think he's on the level as Carson Palmer, but I also don't think he's going to fall apart in the NFL like Matt Leinart has done thus far.
9. Green Bay Packers - Everette Brown, DE/LB, Florida State
The Green Bay Packers have made a transition in house that seldom happens. Green Bay has changed their defensive scheme from a 4-3 to a 3-4 and they still have the same head coach and general manager as they did last year. Dom Capers will bring the 3-4 defense to Green Bay and the first priority for the Packers will be to find players to fit the defense. It starts with getting players up front and if the first eight picks play out like I have it then there will be a huge debate inside 1265 about who to take.
The pass rush in Green Bay was non existent last year and Dom Capers defense really depends a lot on getting pressure on the quarterback. Everette Brown might be the best pure pass rusher in the draft due to his raw talent. He can absolutely get after the quarterback much like James Harrison and is a great fit for Dom Capers' defense. Aaron Kampman can't do it by himself and you know the Packers are going to want to put as much pressure on their opponents as possible. Remember, Detroit is probably going to take Matthew Stafford and with Jay Cutler in Chicago, the NFC North isn't as quarterback unfriendly as it used to be.
10. San Francisco 49ers - Andre Smith, OT, Alabama
Mike Singletary is changing the culture in San Francisco. The old West Coast offense that carried San Francisco to five Super Bowl titles has disappeared. The 49ers are moving towards a run first oriented offense and the best run blocking tackle in the draft is Andre Smith.
Forget about the off the field antics this Winter and look strictly at what Smith did throughout his college career. Smith is the best blocker in this draft. His attitude is a concern and I probably wouldn't take him in the top ten if I had that kind of power, but I've noticed that Mike Singletary seems to have a lot of confidence in himself to get the most out of a player. If he can get the most out of Smith, San Francisco may very well land a steal with this pick. If the 49ers can't, then I think Smith can move inside and play guard pretty well anyways. That might be where he ultimately ends up in the long run.
11. Buffalo Bills - Aaron Maybin, DE, Penn State
The Buffalo Bills draft strategy has been draft for need rather than value since Dick Jauron took over as head coach. I would argue that Donte Whitner, John McCargo, Marshawn Lynch and Leodis McKelvin were all reaches when they were picked in round one. The results have been mixed. Lucky for Buffalo they probably won't have to reach for their biggest need this year. Aaron Maybin is certainly worth this pick.
Maybin had an outstanding pro day workout that should elevate himself into the top 20 picks of this draft. Buffalo was 28th in sacks last year and Aaron Schobel hasn't been as productive in recent years due to injuries or maybe it's the fact that he's on the wrong side of 30. Maybin is very young and you could argue he has as much upside as anyone in the entire draft.
12. Denver Broncos - Tyson Jackson, DE, Louisiana State
The Jay Cutler situation in Denver wasn't pretty. Denver loss their starting quarterback and arguably their best player. Now the Broncos must try and replace him, but the problem is Mark Sanchez is the only viable first round quarterback that fits Josh McDaniels' scheme. Josh Freeman doesn't and with Sanchez off the board, Denver might have to wait to find a replacement for Cutler. The only way I think they can land Sanchez is if the move up into the top ten.
I like Sanchez, but McDaniels has worked with a couple of late round quarterbacks in Tom Brady and Matt Cassel. It worked out pretty well in New England so that is something he could try to do in Denver. The Broncos defense was horrible last year and they could use these two top 20 selections to find players that fit their new 3-4 scheme. Tyson Jackson is an overlooked prospect this year. He's a perfect defensive end in the 3-4 and he is arguably the best run stopping defensive lineman in this draft. Denver would welcome an addition such as that.
13. Washington Redskins - Michael Oher, OT, Ole Miss
The Washington Redskins' concerns are on the defensive and offensive lines. They took care of half their problems on the defensive line by signing Albert Haynesworth to the largest free agent contract ever for a defensive player. They still need a pass rusher, but at this point in the draft it's going to be tough to get one especially with the four teams picking ahead of them needing one, too.
The offensive line is a concern and perhaps the most recognized name of all the offensive linemen is Michael Oher. The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game was a New York Times best selling book and it featured Oher. In a lot of ways, Oher has been overrated and underrated because of the book. Some have nitpicked him and others have jumped on his bandwagon. He has the tools, but his inconsistency is becoming well known and I think it probably will keep him out of the top 10. Washington could use a long-term solution at both tackles so Oher's value might mean more to them.
14. New Orleans Saints - Malcolm Jenkins, CB, Ohio State
The New Orleans Saints are a good defense away from being a Super Bowl contender. The biggest concern on their defense is nobody makes a consistent impact, specifically in the secondary. Malcolm Jenkins could be that guy and he could do it either at corner or free safety.
Jenkins saw his stock drop in the draft because of a poor showing at the combine. He wasn't as quick as everyone thought and he just didn't have that elite workout that has separated the elite defensive backs from the very good ones. His 4.55 in the 40 yard dash will make most, including myself, project him to free safety in the NFL. To top it off, Jenkins' pro day was average as well. Regardless of all that, Jenkins is an upgrade and a potential impact player for the Saints at either corner or safety.
15. Houston Texans - Jeremy Maclin, WR, Missouri
Based on the way their season ended, the Houston Texans are an up-and-coming football team. The offense is already arguably a top 10 unit and the defense is slowly developing with guys like DeMeco Ryans and Mario Williams. I've been saying for most of the year that Houston should go defense early and often in the draft, but with Jeremy Maclin staring Gary Kubiak right in the face, they might need to make an exception.
I'm not the biggest Maclin fan. I think he has outstanding speed, but I see serious concerns with his route running and whether or not he truly can develop into a No. 1 receiver. That won't matter in Houston. Maclin could serve as the Texans' No. 2 receiver opposite of Andre Johnson and the teams' primary return man. He could help the team win football games right now and going into his fourth year on the job, Gary Kubiak might need to do something sooner rather than later.
16. San Diego Chargers - Eben Britton, OT, Arizona
Nobody has done as good of a job of finding talent in the draft as the San Diego Chargers. Say what you want about A.J. Smith and some of his tactics, but he knows how to find talent. Under Smith, San Diego is not a team that is afraid to grab a player they feel will come in and start right away. I think that's what they want to do with this selection.
At this point in the draft, San Diego will have a realistic shot at Tyson Jackson, but there is a good chance Denver takes him ahead of them or even someone else. That leaves the Chargers looking at the running backs, defensive backs, and the offensive lineman. I think they opt to go with the offensive line. Eben Britton is not a household name. He isn't projected in the top 20 by many, but he has the potential to be a very good right tackle. San Diego's future is still Phillip Rivers and don't be shocked if protecting him with two bookend tackles in Marcus McNeil and maybe Britton is something San Diego does on draft day.
17. New York Jets - Josh Freeman, QB, Kansas State
The Jets overachieved early last year. Brett Favre had two more big wins in him and he got them against Tennessee and New England. After that, New York kind of fell apart and while most Jets' fans blame Favre, the reality is the team wasn't much better.
The good news is the Jets have hired Rex Ryan who I think is one of the best defensive coaches in the game today. Ryan will have that defense playing good football, but I don't care how good the defense is, New York can't win with their current quarterbacks. Josh Freeman makes sense for the Jets. He has a strong arm and shouldn't have a problem dealing with the weather in the Northeast. He is a work in progress, but so was Joe Flacco. Receiver is a concern and the Jets would love to add a defensive lineman, but they can't go into next season with Kellen Clemons and Brett Ratliff as their most viable quarterback options.
18. Denver Broncos - Brian Cushing, LB, Southern California
What the Broncos do with this pick will largely depend on what they do with their first pick. If Denver wants Mark Sanchez, someone else very well could be picking here. If Denver stays put, I think they'll look to add a defensive player and not a running back as some have been speculating.
Brian Cushing was said to test positive for steroids and that report appears to be false which makes Cushing a more realistic option in the top 20 than what he would've been had the report been accurate. Denver has a chance to rebuild their defense and adding Cushing with Tyson Jackson would give the Broncos an excellent start to their draft. Nothing is set in stone, but Denver fans should realize that the Broncos now have a ton of options and one of them is rebuilding that defense. They don't necessary need to find a quarterback this early in the draft.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Peria Jerry, DT, Ole Miss
Raheem Morris has connections to Josh Freeman. Tampa Bay needs a quarterback. You connect the dots. It's likely, Tampa Bay is going to have to move up to get Freeman because I think the Jets will take him in a heartbeat if they get that chance. If the Buccaneers can't move up, then they need to focus on their defense. Jon Gruden won a Super Bowl with a great defense in Tampa and chances are Morris is going to have to do the same.
Tampa Bay hasn't had a great inside presence since Warren Sapp played for them. That might change if the Buccaneers draft Peria Jerry. Jerry is overshadowed by B.J. Raji, but I think Jerry can be just as effective as a pro if put into the right system. He's a quick defensive tackle that can get into the opponents backfield and make the big play when needed. He could be utilized by Jim Bates quite well. The Buccaneers could look for an offensive player, but their interest in Albert Haynesworth tells me that they know they need help inside.
20. Detroit Lions - Robert Ayers, DE, Tennessee
The Lions have so many needs that they could look in so many areas that I would have to write a separate column to go into details. That's how much this roster needs a overhaul, but the good news is Matt Millen isn't making the decisions anymore.
If I had to completely rebuild a football team the first two positions I would look at would be quarterback and defensive end. Detroit could be thinking the same thing or at least I think they should. Robert Ayers is climbing draft boards so much so that he could be selected before Detroit gets a chance. I think he could go as high as No. 9 actually. Some teams like him standing up as a 3-4 outside linebacker, but I think he's a perfect 4-3 defensive end. With Jay Cutler and Aaron Rodgers in the division, Detroit is going to want to get after the quarterback.
21. Philadelphia Eagles - William Beatty, OT, Connecticut
The Eagles have dominated the NFC in this decade. They're the Buffalo Bills of this decade and like the Bills they haven't won a Super Bowl. However, 15 years later Buffalo fans are longing for the days of Marv Levy and Jim Kelly. I think in time Eagles fans will long for the days of Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb.
Despite what some Eagles' fans think, Reid knows football and he knows the game can be loss in the trenches if you don't have good lineman. That's why I think the Eagles will look to add a lineman early in the draft. I projected Eben Britton to Philadelphia in my last mock, but with Britton off the board in this update, William Beatty is the next best left. Beatty isn't the ideal big guy for the Eagles' scheme, but he has the potential to develop into a very good left tackle one day and Philadelphia needs a long-term solution at that position. Beatty could be the Eagles' left tackle in waiting.
22. Minnesota Vikings - Percy Harvin, WR, Florida
It wasn't pretty at times, but it worked. That's how I describe the Minnesota Vikings in 2008. The Vikings offense relies on one player and obviously that's Adrian Peterson. The Vikings can still do so much more to improve their offense and it starts with their passing game.
Percy Harvin makes sense for a team that is built to win now. Harvin would contribute right away for the Vikings whom desperately need a spark in their passing and return game. Harvin's pro day was very impressive. He caught the ball well and displayed his game breaking like speed. If you add that type of speed to an offense that already has Adrian Peterson, then Minnesota could be pretty difficult on their home turf.
23. New England Patriots - Clay Mathews, LB, Southern California
How can a team lose Tom Brady and still be an 11-win football team? That answer is Bill Belichick. Say what you want, but this guy can coach football. New England should be a top contender in 2009, but for a team so good, they do have quite a few needs.
New England could address their offensive line, defensive line, secondary, or running game with this selection, but Clay Matthews on paper is a Bill Belichick type of guy. Matthews reminds a lot of people like Mike Vrabel. He's not flashy and he's not going to standout all that much, but he gets the job done. Whatever he's asked of, he does and that's not always an easy thing to find in a player. Like Brian Cushing, Matthews reportedly tested positive for steroids, but like Cushing, Matthews appears to have been cleared.
24. Atlanta Falcons - Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Oklahoma State
The Atlanta Falcons have good things to come. They have their version of the "big three" with Matt Ryan, Michael Turner and Roddy White. The one thing their offense lacked this year was a safety valve for Matt Ryan.
Most tight ends act as their quarterbacks safety valve and Brandon Pettigrew can be that for Ryan. He has good height and hands. Plus, he's a great blocker and that will be valuable in a run-first offense that Atlanta uses. His combine was good, but Pettigrew is more like Bubba Franks as a prospect than Vernon Davis and that's not a bad thing. However, Franks probably doesn't go as high as he did due to today's tight ends being more athletic than ever before.
25. Miami Dolphins - Vontae Davis, CB, Illinois
The turnaround Miami did and is still doing is unbelievable. The Dolphins were one of the weakest teams in the NFL in terms of talent at this time last year and now they're an up-and-coming team that could be competitive in the coming seasons. That's Bill Parcells for you.
At one point I felt that this selection was going to be either Tyson Jackson or Clay Matthews and that could be the case yet, but it's not any longer as obvious as I felt. Both of those players have elevated their draft stock to potential top 20 selections. If Miami can't get a front seven player, a cornerback would be a welcome addition. A lot of people believe Vontae Davis is the best corner in the draft. I believe the case can be made, but don't rule out Darius Butler either. Parcells may like Butler's work ethic more than Davis'.
26. Baltimore Ravens - Darius Heyward-Bey, WR, Maryland
Baltimore's drafting is the best kept secret in football. You hear about the job Pittsburgh, New England, Indianapolis, and San Diego have done, but the Ravens have drafted as well as those teams.
One thing Baltimore must address is their passing game. They've found their quarterback, but he needs the assets around him to be effective. Darius Heyward-Bey ran one of the fastest 40 yard dashes of any receiver this decade clocking in at 4.30 at the combine. Production is a concern with Heyward-Bey and a lot of people feel it was him, while others feel he wasn't used properly. I think it's probably somewhere in the middle and that's still a big upgrade to what Baltimore currently has opposite of Derrick Mason.
27. Indianapolis Colts - Darius Butler, CB, Connecticut
The Colts do as good as a job of ignoring needs as any team in football when it comes to the draft. Constantly, Indianapolis has looked the other way when it comes to needs and has taken the best player available. That's never a bad thing when it has worked as well as it has for Bill Polian.
This year the Colts need help in their front seven and they also could use another receiver, but once again, Indianapolis might be better off grabbing a player who might not necessary fill their greatest need. The Colts don't need to grab a corner this early, but Darius Butler is emerging as a legit first round prospect. Some will argue Butler should go as high as No. 14 to New Orleans. I don't think he's going that high, but he's certainly a better value this late than James Laurinaitis or Evander Hood.
28. Philadelphia Eagles - Chris Wells, RB, Ohio State
It's tough to figure out Chris Wells. He's the total package on paper. He's a good power runner and can take over a game. The problem is he's very unreliable. He's injury prone and his toughness should be brought into question. At first, I admittedly didn't think it was a huge concern, but after the Fiesta Bowl, enough was enough. Wells didn't play when his team needed him most and that was in the fourth quarter. You can't have so many things pile up on one another and ignore them. I think NFL teams know this and because of that Wells might drop.
Lucky for Wells, Philadelphia is in the market for a big running back to pair with Brain Westbrook. Wells could split carries with Westbrook and not be asked to shoulder the load. Philadelphia could also conserve Westbrook and utilize him in ways that allows him to be more successful as he ages. Wells to Philadelphia not only is a good fit for the Eagles, but it also makes sense for Wells himself.
29. New York Giants - Larry English, LB, Northern Illinois
The New York Giants have really been active in free agency this year and they've loaded up their defense for what appears to be a run at another Super Bowl. Of course you can't win a Super Bowl right now, but the Giants are certainly showing everyone around the league that they're going all in.
The Giants signed Michael Boley to play weak side linebacker in their defense, but it also turns out they need someone on the strong side. Larry English fits their defense very well. English was once an under the radar prospect, but now he's rising fast and 3-4 teams will likely covet him. New York who runs a blitz oriented 4-3 defense would love to add a SAM that can rush the passer. The Giants need a receiver, but there really isn't a receiver worth taking here and New York will look to utilize the value of this pick the best it can.
30. Tennessee Titans - Michael Johnson, DE, Georgia Tech
The Titans win football games a certain way and that's running the ball and playing stout defense. Tennessee could use an upgrade at defensive end opposite of Kyle Vanden Bosch and this late they may have their chance to grab one.
Michael Johnson is one of the most physically gifted defensive ends in recent memory. He's fast off the edge with outstanding size to go along with that speed. He's just somewhat of an underachiever which is why he's probably not a top 15 pick. However, Jeff Fisher is one of the best motivators in the NFL today. If you can't play for Fisher, then you probably can't play at all. Tennessee needs a receiver, but the Titans draft the best player available. They don't just say it, they actually do it.
31. Arizona Cardinals - Knowshon Moreno, RB, Georgia
The Arizona Cardinals postseason run was unbelievable. Arizona went from being one of the absolute worse looking playoff teams to ever qualify to being just minutes away from a Super Bowl title. Even with the playoff run, Arizona has work to do. They need a pass rusher and most importantly they need a running game.
Knowshon Moreno is probably my top back in the draft right now, but that's not saying much. Coming into the season, we all thought this was going to be a great group of backs, but as time has passed, it's become more clear that none of the backs are elite. Moreno is probably the safest pick of the backs and is an excellent fit for the Cardinals offense. His combine workout wasn't impressive, but on the field he's proven he has the ability to get it done. Putting a talent like Moreno in the Cardinals' backfield could make their offense very dangerous regardless of who's playing quarterback.
32. Pittsburgh Steelers - Alex Mack, OL, California
The Pittsburgh Steelers are one of the best drafting franchises and they've been this way for quite along time. The Steelers rarely ever go into free agency and make the big splash. They build through the draft and that's probably the reason why they've been as successful as they've been in the last 20 years.
Alex Mack isn't flashy and he's certainly not an elite interior lineman prospect, but he is a very good one. Mack really didn't do anything to help his stock in the pre draft process, but on tape, he's clearly a step above anyone else at the position. Mack projects to play either center or guard in the NFL and could probably start from day one on an offensive line that was average at best last season.