Continuing our (second) annual tradition, and completely skipping over the American Idol drinking game because its moment passed while I was on vacation a few weeks ago, here is the Hock Show’s NFL Draft Preview!
1. Miami Dolphins: Chris Long, DE, Virginia
Pros: The Dolpins need tons of help anyway, and long will give them the defensive explosion that they lacked last season. Long has football in his blood (he’s the son of former Raiders great Howie Long) and he’s got that mental toughness you want from a defensive cornerstone.
Cons: Long can’t play every position on the field, and the Dolphins pretty much need another quality player at every position. Long is more effort than athleticism, which means that a tougher NFL lineman might be able to bowl over him.
2. St. Louis Rams: Glenn Dorsey, DT, LSU
Pros: The Rams are another team that really needs help in a lot of different places, but their defensive line needs a major overhaul. Dorsey is a difference maker on the D-Line, and should help shore up the Rams’ run defense.
Cons: Dorsey has a rather troubling history of injuries, and in a long NFL season that wears on big bodies like his, that could be a major issue. It’s not worth this draft pick if the explosive tackle will only play a handful of quality years in the NFL.
3. Atlanta Falcons: Jake Long, OT, Michigan
Pros: The Falcons made a bad situation worse last year when they couldn’t block for any of their (admittedly terrible) quarterbacks. The kneejerk reaction would be to take an explosive offensive player (like McFadden) or a quarterback (like Ryan or Brohm), but the Falcons really need a grass roots, solid lineman like Long.
Cons: Long may be the best tackle in the draft, but he’s not nearly as good as last year’s top lineman. He reminds me a lot of Robert Gallery, which isn’t a pro when you’re talking about how good college linemen will play in the NFL. Won’t be a popular choice with guys like McFadden and Ryan still on the board.
4. Oakland Raiders Vernan Gholston, DE, Ohio State
Pros: The Raider’s defense has actually been pretty damn good the last few years, but the addition of a guy like Gholston would put them over the top. He’s a better pure athlete than Chris Long, and he can play Linebacker in the 3-4.
Cons: He’s lazy for one. He’s got all the physical gifts you want out of a big time end, but you never know when he’s going to show up. Potential superstar or draft bust, it’s kind of a crapshoot. The Raiders could really use some more help on offense.
5. Kansas City Chiefs Matt Ryan, QB, Boston College
Pros: Brodie Croyle isn’t going to be the answer, so the Chiefs need to get a QB somewhere in the draft. The temptation will be to trade down and grab somebody like Colt Brennan later, but they shouldn’t. Ryan is the best overall quarterback in the draft, with good leadership skills, good arm strength, and good accuracy. Sort of this year’s Brady Quinn.
Cons: He’s good, but he’s not great, and he’ll probably need a year or two to develop in an NFL system. Won’t make the really deep throws, and he throws into coverage too often for top line corners not to get him. He’s not particularily mobile.
6. New York Jets Darren McFadden, RB, Arkansas
Pros: McFadden is a steal here, on the same level as Adrian Peterson last year. Plenty of power and top-end speed. The kind of player that will be able to step in and make an immediate impact. Maybe the first popular choice the Jets have made in years.
Cons: Personality is always a concern in the NFL, and McFadden had a lot of off the field issues in college. If that balloons like it did for Pacman in the pros, McFadden could have an awfully short career. For as strong and fast as he is, better defenders can force pretty easy fumbles on the loose carrying McFadden.
7. New England Patriots Leodis, McKelvin, CB, Troy
Pros: With the departure of Asante Samuel, the Patriots need to upgrade their coverage. McKelvin is the best cover man in the draft this year, and he has the size and speed to hang with most of the best receivers in the NFL. McKelvin is also an experience kick/punt returner if the Patriots decide to use him in that capacity.
Cons: Most of the knocks on McKelvin are the same as those on Samuel. His great physical gifts are offset by his laziness. When plays flow away from him he loses focus, allowing him to run himself out of position for tackles. He’s got a history of leg injuries also.
8. Baltimore Ravens Dominic Rodgers-Cromartie, CB, Tennessee State
Pros: It’s about time the Ravens put someone new in their aging secondary. Rodgers-Cromartie has a similar build and speed to McKelvin, but he’s a little taller, which will help him even more. He comes from a good pedigree (his cousin is the Charger’s Antonio Cromartie), and has experience returning kicks.
Cons: Rodgers-Cromartie is a very poor tackler, which will kill him if he doesn’t improve fast. Tennessee State isn’t exactly a marquee college, and as such he’s never really been tested by any great receivers or complicated offenses.
9. Cincinnati Bengals Keith Rivers, LB, USC
Pros: The Bengals need help all over on defense, but the most pressing concern is upgrading their shoddy linebacking corps. Rivers is the most physically gifted LB in the draft, and he’s a good tackler with decent coverage skills. Maybe more importantly for the Bengals locker room, however, is that Rivers stays out of trouble and is a good leader.
Cons: His tremendous physical gifts have never really translated to stats. Not that stats are the most important thing, but great linebackers show up in the statline. His technique has a tendancy to get a bit sloppy late in games.
10. New Orleans Saints Sedrick Ellis, DT, USC
Pros: Ellis is a gift to fall to the Saints here. They need a big strong defensive lineman, and they’re so high on Ellis they might try to trade up to get him. Ellis is a monster in the middle, with enough power and burst to break through a line and wrap up a runner or quarterback. Great football intelligence, Ellis reads and reacts well.
Cons: Injury prone, which means the Saints can’t totally count on him. He’s a bit undersized for a nose tackle at 6’ and 300 lbs. In college, Ellis could pretty much just outmuscle any lineman he was put against, but that’s not going to fly in the NFL. He needs to work on his technique.
11. Buffalo Bills Devin Thomas, WR, Michigan State
Pros: The Bills need to find a compliment to Lee Evans, and Thomas has the size and speed to do that. Thomas has experience as a return man if Buffalo wants to go that way, and he’s pretty good on reverses and bubble screens, which should take some pressure off Marshawn Lynch and their running game.
Cons Not a lot of experience at the position, as he saw most of his action at Michigan State as a sub. Still learning the position really, so you’re drafting him here based on physical ability and future potential.
12. Denver Broncos Ryan Clandy, OT, Boise State
Pros: The Broncos need to take a lineman here, and there’s a clump of pretty good ones they could take here, but Clandy has the most upside. Long, strong arms and great quickness make him a good fit for Denver’s zone blocking scheme.
Cons: He had some issues with run blocking that will definitely need to be fixed in Denver’s run-first scheme. He’ll need to bulk up a bit to play at the pro-level or he’ll get bull rushed by NFL defensive linemen.
13. Carolina Panthers Chris Williams, OT, Vanderbilt
Pros: There are a lot of linemen that you could take here, and Carolina might opt to go defense at this pick. Williams is a solid offensive lineman with good technique and strength. Most notable for the Panthers, of course, is his exceptional pass blocking, a skill Carolina sorely needed last year.
Cons: Run blocking wasn’t as strong as it could’ve been. Williams isn’t a natural, and he had to play his way into the Vanderbilt starting line-up. Still developing as an elite lineman, which makes him a potential draft here rather than a sure thing.
14. Chicago Bears Jeff Otah, OT, Pitt
The Bears will be tempted to draft Illinois product Rashard Mendenhall here, but the smart money is to upgrade their aging offensive line. Otah’s a strong, beefy lineman who can push the defense into the second level.
Cons: This pick would leave Chicago still with glaring holes at QB (which nobody in this draft would fix) and Running Back. Chicago fans might question not taking Mendenhall here, even if he is a bit of a reach. Otah’s still learning the game and relies too much on pure power out of his stance. Poor conditioning. His upside is fairly limited.
15. Detroit Lions Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Illinois
Pros: Detroit absolutely needs to add talent at the running back position with Kevin Jones out. Mendenhall is a Midwest product which Lions fans will appreciate. Mendenhall is a strong runner with pretty good top end speed. Familiar with Detroit’s multiple receiver package offense.
Cons: He’s not quick enough to evade elite NFL linebackers. Mendenhall is kind of a reach here, because while he’ll probably have a good NFL career, he doesn’t seem to be an elite-type back. Attitude a concern.
16. Arizona Cardinals Mike Jenkins, CB, USF
Pros: Arizona definitely needs the defensive back support, and Jenkins is the best prospect left on the board. Great coverage ability, and the speed to go man-to-man with most NFL team’s #1 reciever. Great fit for the hole Rolle is leaving in their secondary. Ok kick returner if Arizona goes that way with him.
Cons: Jenkins is lazy on and off the field, not really helping support plays that don’t go his way and not working hard off the field. Not a great tackler. Spotty character issues including an arrest earlier this year. Thinks he’s a better player than he is. Arizona could really use a running back here.
17. Minnesota Vikings Derrick Harvey, DE, Florida
Pros: With the loss of Kenechi Udeze to leukemia and the inconsistency of Erasmus James, the Vikings need a hard, athletic DE to fuel their pass rush. Harvey has great quickness and is a natural DE. Can beat stronger players with superior technique.
Cons: I fully expect that the Vikings will trade this pick to Kansas City for Jared Allen. A top-end QB would seem to be a bigger need position. If stronger linemen get their hands on Harvey, it’s over for him. Doesn’t give spectacular production from the position.
18. Houston Texans Aqib Talib, CB, Kansas
Pros: A definite upgrade for the Texan’s secondary. Tallish corner with good range and an excellent ability to get a read on the offense. Does a nice job of keeping up with receivers in the backpedal and an even better job of playing balls in the air.
Cons: Not the fastest corner in the draft. Top line WRs will be able to work him over in straight speed situations. His mouth gets the better of him at times, which could lead to him getting into some trouble with the league. Not a great tackler.
19. Philadelphia Eagles Gosder Cherilus, OT, Boston College
Pros: The Eagles can draft based on potential rather than skill here, because they have a solid offensive line right now, but Thomas and Runyan aren’t getting any younger, so they need to get a replacement sooner or later. Strong arms and hands. Great run blocker, and he‘s got great passion.
Cons: He’s a little slow to react, which will be hard to recover from in the NFL. Poor blitz coverage. Needs to work on his technique to excel at the pro game. All potential here, which is why the Eagles can afford to draft him.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Limas Sweed, WR, Texas
Pros: Tampa does not have a top line wide reciever, and after failing to pick up Calvin Johnson in last year’s draft, the Bucs absolutely need to add some offensive firepower. Sweed has pretty good top line speed, along with great jumping ability. Can overpower most NFL corners going for a high pass. Wants to be a playmaker.
Cons: Not super fast, so defenders will be able to catch him. Mainly projected to be a possession type receiver because he doesn’t get great yards after the catch. Works hard, but needs to show more on the field instead of in meetings.
21. Washington Redskins Kenny Phillips, S, Miami
Pros: Washington needs some youth in some positions like WR and on the defensive line, but the most pressing need is filling the hole left by the death of Sean Taylor. Kenny Phillips is the best safety available here. Good tackler who can transition into pass coverage if need be.
Cons: Not a player on the level of Taylor. Played his way onto Miami starting roster, but missed some time with injuries. Best safety available on the board, but his top line potential is iffy. Will get beat by better pro receivers and backs.
22. Dallas Cowboys Felix Jones, RB, Arkansas
Pros: After releasing Julius Jones this offseason, Dallas is looking for a compliment to Marion Barber in the backfield. Who better than Jones, who is already used to being a talented backup to a better back (Arkansas’ Darren McFadden)? Jones has great field vision, follows his blocks nicely, and has great burst once he’s through the hole. Great 3rd down back and special teams guy.
Cons: RB is certainly not Dallas’ most pressing concern here. Jones is small and will be easy for good NFL linebackers to break down. Not used to the NFL rushing load, which would be a concern if Barber is injured. Good secondary back, but might be a reach this early.
23. Pittsburgh Steelers Branden Albert, OG, Virginia
Pros: After the departure of Alan Faneca, the Steelers need line help. Albert is the kind of guy who can make an immediate impact. Great, strong hands with good downfield blocking. Has played some tackle so he’s versatile. Good foot work. Showed leadership ability at Virginia.
Cons: Gets stood up too often, which means that he’ll get beat plenty in the pros. Needs to bulk up if he’s going to play guard in the NFL. Needs to start faster, directly off the snap. Too inexperienced to play tackle as a pro, but he could grow into that spot.
24. Tennessee Titans DeShawn Jackson, WR, Cal
Pros: The Titans need another playmaker on offense, and Jackson could be just what they need. Great burst, and top end speed, good quickness, and excellent hands. Showed that he can be a burner as a kick returner also. Potentially a Steve Smith-like WR in the pros.
Cons: Against NFL defenders, might end up being more in the Devin Hester/Ted Ginn Jr. mold of providing one or two big plays a game and being shut out otherwise. Not a great route runner, kind of plays his own game. Like Smith, Jackson is awfully small (5’10”) to be a great receiver, so (like Smith) he’ll have to fight for it.
25. Seattle Seahawks Jonathan Stewart, RB, Oregon
Pros: They need to replace Shawn Alexander who has fallen way off his former glory. Stewart is not only a smart local pick, but might be the best overall back on the board. Strong, runs low to the ground which makes him hard to bring down. Great backfield receiver. Good acceleration. Solid backside blocker.
Cons: Constantly nursing injuries, which was part of the problem with Alexander. Not really a tested North/South runner, which would be an issue in Seattle. Not particularly elusive, which means that better NFL linebackers should be able to bring him down in traffic.
26. Jacksonville Jaguars Cailis Campbell, DE, Miami
Pros: Defensive line is the most pressing concern for the Jaguars this off season, and Campbell is the best one left on the board. Great size and speed. Has the strength to get by the tackle and wrap up a bigger back.
Cons: Didn’t put in a lot of effort at Miami. After putting up great numbers as a sophmore, he seemed to slump. Lets himself get worked out of plays. Doesn’t do enough to disengage a lineman that locks onto him. More a pick based on future potential than anything he can do now.
27. San Diego Chargers Brandon Flowers, CB, Virginia Tech
Pros: The Chargers don’t really need to do a whole lot of adjusting, but they could use an upgrade at nickle corner. Flowers is a great up-and-down hitter, with a good nose for the ball in passing and running situations. Not afraid to get physical with a larger back or receiver.
Cons: Not a great cover corner, and won’t get you many interceptions. Not that you need a great cover guy as your nickle back, but he will get beat. Poor speed for a NFL level corner, and he’ll get out jumped for balls.
28. Dallas Cowboys Antoine Cason, CB, Arizona
Pros: Even if they get Pacman Jones, the Cowboys need depth at the cornerback position. Cason is a ball hawk who does a good job reading offenses and reacting to the ball. Not afraid to support the run when he’s needed. Good athlete.
Cons: Too small to play against more physical NFL receivers. Poor technique can get in the way of his coverages at times. Poor speed for an NFL corner. Probably a reach at this point in the draft, but the best CB left on the Cowboy’s second pick.
29. San Fransisco 49ers Jerod Mayo, LB, Tennessee
Pros: Patrick Willis was a great pick last year, but the Niners still need support in the line backing corps. Mayo is a great athlete and a solid tackler. Good movement in traffic. Does a nice job reading and reacting to the offense.
Cons: Sometimes locks up when he’s in a block. Does a poor job getting through the lanes as a blitzer. Too small to make a great interior linebacker as a pro, but not fast enough to be a top shelf outside guy. Better backup than he is a starter.
30. Green Bay Packers Reggie Smith, S, Oklahoma
Pros: The Packers need secondary depth more than anything else, and even though he’s a safety, Smith is the best option left on the board. Has good size and speed for a safety. Does a good job reading and reacting to the play as it develops. Physical enough and a good enough jumper to fight for the ball in the air. Can play coverage.
Cons: Not the natural cover man the Packers would covet. Easy to beat if a receiver can catch the ball over him. A bit injury prone. Will probably be a better special teams player than a defender for the first few years of his career while he learns NFL coverage schemes.
31. New York Giants Dan Connor, LB, Penn State
Pros: Giants have plenty of secondary holes, but the rest of the defensive backs are kind of a wash, so adding depth at LB becomes the primary concern. Connor is a big physical tackler, but he’s quick enough to cover better TEs and backs. High motor player that will work hard even if he’s not starting. Of course, comes out of a program known for its linebackers.
Cons: The Giants will wish they could get a defensive back here, and might reach to get a poor one in the first round rather than go for a sure thing like Connor. Needs to add some muscle to sure up his tackling in the pros. Like AJ Hawk last year, he has a tendency to over think plays which results in him getting blocked or run out of the action.
So there you have it, my guesses as to this year’s NFL Draft next weekend. Now get out there and enjoy the…rain. Or whatever it is wherever you is. Are. Whatever.