1. Detroit Lions
Matthew Stafford, QB, Georgia
Pros: The Lions desperately need an identity, and while a defensive lineman or offensive tackle would probably be a better choice, Matt Stafford is exactly the kind of pick they need to make to show they’re serious about rebuilding this team. Stafford has a great arm, and more importantly, I think he’ll be able to weather the inevitable storm of being on a very poor Lions team as they build around him.
Cons: Like Jay Cutler (or Bret Favre before him), Stafford has way too much faith in his arm. Now that might not be such a bad thing with Calvin Johnson lining up at receiver, but that “Nobody’s open, so I’m going deep” mentality only gets you so far in the NFL, especially when you don’t have a defense that can save you.
Overall, I think Stafford isn’t really the pick the Lions should make, but it’s the one they *need* to make, if for no other reason than so they can begin to figure out their offense.
2. St. Louis Rams
Jason Smith, OT, Baylor
Pros: For a guy of his size, Smith has incredibly quick feet. He’s great on screens and lateral runs, and can match up very well one-on-one with a good defensive end or blitzing linebacker. Never gives up on a block.
Cons: His technique is mediocre, at best. In college he could rely on his physical ability to drive guys out of plays, but he’s not going to match up well against the Jared Allens or Julius Peppers of the NFL. It’s something a guy can learn, but his first 2-3 seasons are going to have a high learning curve.
The departure of Orlando Pace makes finding a LT the top priority for the Rams in this draft, and there’s a lot to like about Jason Smith. He’s a day one starter, for sure, but he’s going to have to do a lot of on the job training this season.
3. Kansas City Chiefs
Aaron Curry, LB, Wake Forrest
Pros: Curry may be the most talented player in the draft, and the most ready to play NFL style defense coming out of college. He’s smart, a great tackler, and he’s the kind of guy you want playing the run in a blitz-heavy, 3-4 scheme, like the one that the Chiefs are getting ready to implement this year.
Cons: The biggest knock against Curry is that he’s not a good coverage guy. For whatever reason, he’s fine in pursuit, but he has trouble staying with TEs and backs in routes. That’s trouble playing San Diego, Oakland, and Denver, which all figure to use their backs and tight ends as receivers a lot this year.
The Chief’s linebacking corps is either extremely mediocre or, in the cases of Zach Thomas and Mike Vrable, ancient. Curry is the perfect addition to build a 3-4 pass rush around, so long as the other guys can protect him in the passing game.
4. Seattle Seahawks
Eugene Monroe, OT, Virginia
Pros: Monroe is a physical specimen, and has all the physical tools to succeed as a tackle in the NFL. He’s got big legs and great arms, which allow him to encompass and stand up big DEs. He’s also got good technique.
Cons: Put simply, he’s a bit slow. He doesn’t explode off the ball, and will sometimes be beat off the snap before he even pulls out of his stance. Occasionally he’ll try to overpower guys rather than use his technique to beat them, and a smart DE will be able to slide around him.
This is the first reach of the draft, but it’s an understandable one. Seattle has poured a ton of money into their offense, only to have their Matt Hasselbeck injured or on his back on far too many snaps. If they can motivate Monroe, he’ll be great, if not, he’ll be a bust.
5. Cleveland Browns
Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech
Pros: Fantastic hands, he’ll catch literally anything thrown in his general direction. Extraordinary vision and control, allowing him to make moves in any portion of the field. Great burst off the line of scrimmage, and at 6’2”, 200lbs he will not get pushed off the ball by a corner.
Cons: He has too much faith in his ability some times, which makes him a little lax in trying to shed coverage.
He might be a steal at number five, believe it or not. Michael Crabtree is a dynamic receiver who will instantly make Brady Quinn or Derek Anderson look a million times better than Braylon Edwards did last year. This is a must choose pick if Edwards is traded this week.
6. Cincinnati Bengals
Andre Smith, OT, Alabama
Pros: He’s a huge bruising lineman who can push most DEs around with ease. He may be the best pure run blocker in the draft. At 348 pounds, you might think he needs to cut back on his weight, but there’s a lot of muscle mass in there.
Cons: Smith doesn’t seem terribly interested in playing NFL football. He ran into legal trouble at Alabama, didn’t bother to show up for the Combine, and half-assed his Pro Day. At 348lbs, he’s…not the fastest guy on the field.
The Bengals also have a pressing need at running back, but they have zero starting tackles on their roster right now. Smith has all the makings of a bust, but legal trouble and immaturity has never scared the Bengals away from picking up a player.
7. Oakland Raiders
Brian Orakpo, DE, Texas
Pros: Orakpo’s an extraordinary athlete who can be an elite rusher from the edge. I think he has the skills to be a good DE or pass-rushing LB in a 3-4. He’s also a pretty good run defender in stacked sets, with pretty good lateral movement.
Cons: He missed a lot of time with a knee injury last year, which is a huge issue for a guy who plays as fast as Orakpo does. He doesn’t have the size to compete directly with NFL sized offensive tackles. He’s better in workouts than he was on the field at times.
Al Davis loves him some workout warriors, and Orakpo put up the kind of numbers Al likes to see. The difference between what Al usually gets is that Orakpo has the skills to be a difference maker on defense. If he can stay healthy, that is, which is a big if.
8. Jacksonville Jaguars
Jeremy Maclin, WR, Missouri
Pros: Great top-line speed, Maclin explodes off the line, and he can blow by most decent corners. Adds an extra level to Jacksonville’s punt and kick return games. Good jumper, he can pull some balls down in the end zone.
Cons: Missouri played a spread that didn’t really teach him anything about playing in the NFL. He’s a lot like Ted Ginn in that he’s a great, fast return guy, but he’s going to be major project at receiver, and he will never work as a slot/blocking guy.
Jacksonville is desperate for a game changing wide receiver. The Matt Jones experiment is looking at prison time, and the Troy Williamson trade was a bust. Maclin’s probably the biggest playmaker on the board, but like with Ginn a few years ago, it’s too high a spot to draft a career return guy who is going to take years to mold into anything resembling an NFL receiver.
9 Green Bay Packers
Tyson Jackson, DE, LSU
Pros: Good edge rushing ability, but he has the strength to engage defenders on the line. Great technique, so he can shed blocks easily playing the run. Surprisingly athletic for a guy hovering around 300lbs.
Cons: Has a bit of trouble keeping up with plays moving sideline to sideline. While he causes havoc in the backfield, he’s not going to be a sacks guy in the NFL.
Green Bay is going to have to completely overhaul their defensive line to suite their new 3-4 scheme. Jackson’s going to be the best 3-4 DE left on the board by the time they pick, and he’s got the physical tools to succeed in the role. It’s not a flashy pick, and he’s not going to be a stats guy, but he should be able to do what they need him to do.
10. San Fransisco 49ers
Mark Sanchez, QB, USC
Pros: The most accurate passer in the draft this year. Smart leader who consistently put USC in position to win games. Adapted better to USC’s pro-style offense than Matt Leinart or John David Booty, so probably closer to a Carson Palmer.
Cons: Does not have NFL-ready arm strength, which is an overrated stat, but he’s not going to be able to hit guys in double coverage downfield. Only one year as a college starter, and he seems to have a higher opinion of himself than his play really warranted.
Like Detroit, San Fransisco needs a public face to rebuild around, and California native Mark Sanchez seems like the perfect guy to do it. I’m not sold on Sanchez as an NFL guy. He looked great at USC last year, but we don’t really have much of a sample to draw from there. Unless he gets some serious help, I don’t think he’ll pan out any better than Alex Smith has.
11. Buffalo Bills
Michael Oher, OT, Mississippi
Pros: Probably the best pass protector in the draft. Has a fantastic understanding of hand work and body positioning to push quicker DEs out of their moves and out of the play. Plays quick and strong and shouldn’t have any trouble dealing with NFL calibur DEs.
Cons: Has a tendency to over think and over exert himself on plays, leading to him losing blitzers or committing stupid penalties. Not the best run blocker, because he sometimes never gets to that second level to engage LBs.
Having lost both their starting tackles to free agency and trade, Buffalo is going to be desperate for help there in the draft. While they can probably wait and still get a decent tackle with the 28th pick, a talent like Oher is going to be too hard to pass up. He’s got the ability to step in and start from Week One, which is exactly what they need.
12. Denver Broncos
B.J. Rahi, DT Boston College
Pros: Mountain of a man who eats up a lot of space at the line. Faster than you’d think, and he has the quickness and technique to shed blocks and move up field. Prototypical NFL-style nose tackle, who is capable of eating up multiple blockers every play.
Cons: His speed is all straight line, with pretty much no lateral movement. Once you get past him, he’s not going to make the play. Not particularly versatile, he’s a great people mover, but not much else.
If Denver is serious about making a 3-4 work, they need two things, one or two more solid linebackers and a true nose tackle. Raji would more than fill one of those needs. In a 3-4, all you really need your NT to do is push blockers around and swallow up as many as possible, which plays to Raji’s biggest strengths. Could be a steal this late.
13. Washington Redskins
Everette Brown, DE, Florida State
Pros: Fantastic explosion on the line, and shocking strength. A few plays a game he will just blow past a good offensive lineman. Very coachable, he doesn’t rely on his physical talents to succeed, but techniques and intelligence. Never gives up on a play, he has no problems making lateral pursuit.
Cons: As strong as he is, at 250lbs he’s never going to be a pure DE in the NFL. He’ll get mauled by larger, stronger linemen. He’s also never really shown any ability to cover, so transitioning him to linebacker automatically makes him a project instead of a sure starter.
The Redskins have Albert Haynesworth, but they need an elite rushing end to really make any impact with their line. Brown will be great in a Jason Taylor LB/DE hybrid role, where he’s not asked to cover too much, but he can shoot threw the gaps that Haynesworth will be creating without having to go one-on-one with an offensive lineman.
14. New Orleans Saints
Malcolm Jenkins, CB, Ohio State
Pros: Has elite-level speed which will allow him to keep up with most NFL receivers. Better than average in coverage, diagnoses most routes cleanly and efficiently. At 6’1”, he’s not going to be a pushover in jump ball situations. Can play Safety as well, if necessary.
Cons: Poor tackler, he makes an initial hit and never really wraps up, a problem when you have to face Steve Smith twice a year. While he’s usually great in man coverage, he didn’t play against too many complicated offensive schemes in the Big Ten.
The Saints defense was laughable at times last year, and while the temptation probably exists to pick up a linebacker or running back here, the secondary is the area that needs the most immediate help. The Saints desperately need somebody they can line up with Steve Smith, Roddy White, and Antonio Bryant this season. Jenkins may be in for some trial by fire, but if he’s still on the board it’s the smart decision for New Orleans.
15. Houston Texans
Rey Maualuga, LB, USC
Pros: Flies to the ball with reckless abandon, and will make the big hit. He’s also got pretty good tackling technique, so that doesn’t go to waste. Better than average at dropping back with tight ends and backs in pass coverage. Always seems to make plays around the ball.
Cons: Poor off-season showings make you wonder about what level he’ll play at in the NFL. Attitude problem may get the best of him, especially if he rubs Roger Goodell the wrong way. Wild play style makes for some major hits, but also some spectacular misses.
With holes all over the place, Houston is free to take the best player available and hope for the best. While most experts would probably agree that Maualuga dug himself a pretty expansive hole this offseason, the fact of the matter is the guy is a playmaker, and that’s exactly what Houston needs defensively.
16. San Diego Chargers
Chris Wells, RB, Ohio State
Pros: Faster than you’d think, and he plays quicker he looks. Strong enough to punch through the line and break tackles in the box. Great on short yardage. A fine blocker on pass plays. Has the conditioning and body type to be an every down back in the NFL.
Cons: Constantly injured in college, he hasn’t shown an ability to protect his body. Could use some work running pass patterns. Nickname is “Beanie.”
Wide receiver and linebacker are more pressing issues, but the LaDanian Tomlinson issue looms larger over the Chargers. Darren Sproles is a great rusher, but he’s not going to be capable of being an every down back. Knoshown Moreno is a better overall back than Benie Wells, but Wells is a better compliment to Sproles in the Chargers backfield.
17. New York Jets
Josh Freeman, QB, Kansas State
Pros: Big, NFL-sized arm. At 6’6” and 250lbs, he’s a hard target to bring down. Has command of the huddle and good leadership ability.
Cons: Not great at reading defenses, he’ll often throw the ball where he wants it to go regardless of whether or not that area is covered. Odd throwing mechanics need to be corrected or he’ll turn out like Kellen Clemmons. Doesn’t run, he lumbers.
Kellen Clemmons is clearly not the answer, and while the 2010 Draft is going to be saturated with great QB Candidates, the Jets are not a patient team. Freeman at 17 is a huge reach, and he’s a guy that’s basically going to have to learn to play QB from scratch, but if the Jets give him time and patience he may be the answer to their QB dilemma. Or he could be the second coming of (latter day) Dante Culpepper.
18. Denver Broncos
Brian Cushing, LB, USC
Pros: One of the most natural tacklers in this year‘s draft. Good size and top line speed. Disruptive along the line of scrimmage, with his ability to read and react to the ball carrier. Solid pass coverage.
Cons: Jack of all trades but a master of none. Except for tackling, he’s not elite at any part of the normal line backing game. Tends to wear down pretty fast, and would work better as part of a rotation than as a starter until his conditioning improves.
Remember earlier when I said that Denver needed a few good linebackers? This is where they start. Honestly, they could go with either Cushing or Clay Matthews here, but Cushing fits the defensive scheme better, I think. In Denver’s defense, he’ll be able to freelance a little more, which will save him some wear and tear on his body, as well as allow him to use his coverage and play reading skills to their best ability.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Percy Harvin, WR, Florida
Pros: Quick off the ball with blazing speed that will beat many defenders in their backpedal. Good hands. Once he has the ball, makes the most of it with impressive YAC. Compares favorably to Steve Smith.
Cons: Compares negatively to Steve Smith, also. Seems to have a chip on his shoulder, and has had some off the field trouble. At 5’11” he’s going to get lost in traffic and blown up by linebackers. Had some injury issues at Florida, in part due to how much damage his body receives taking hits.
Tampa is still going to be searching for their quarterback of the future, but in the meantime they need to find a WR to compliment last year’s stud Antonio Bryant. Bringing in Kellen Winslow was a great start, but Harvin gives them an over the top, deep threat that will keep defenses on their heels. Florida pedigree makes him an attractive local pick as well.
20. Detroit Lions
Hakeem Nicks, WR, North Carolina
Pros: Excellent route runner, he understands the NFL passing game better than any of the other top flight receivers. Fantastic hands, he makes catches that you would never expect him to pull off. Probably the best possession receiver in the draft.
Cons: Lacks a second gear, which means that he won’t make too many big plays. Strong and feisty, but putting your body on the line in the NFL like he does will just get you hurt. Is a little too confident in his playmaking ability and will occasionally serve one up to defenders while he’s bobbling a catch.
I know what you’re thinking, another Lion’s WR draft pick? Are you nuts?! But with all the top level offensive tackles off the board, the Lions need to address the after effects of the Roy Williams trade. Calvin Johnson cannot carry the offense by himself, he needs a mid-range possession receiver to play across from him and take some pressure off the deep balls. Nicks is the perfect compliment to Johnson for the Lions, and will make life much easier for Matthew Stafford.
21. Philadelphia Eagles
Knowshon Moreno, RB, Georgia
Pros: Tremendous rushing ability both in the flat and between the tackles. Great patience cutting through his blocks, and a good second gear once he makes it through. Isn’t afraid to engage defenders, and has the ability and shiftiness to break free of a few tackles.
Cons: Needs to work on his pass catching, especially in this offense. Will be stuffed just as often as he breaks a big play. Is a liability in the passing game, both as a receiver and as a blocker.
Moreno comes into the NFL as sort of the poor man’s Adrian Peterson. He won’t be quite that explosive in Philly, but he’ll serve as a fantastic heir apparent to Brian Westbrook, whom the Eagles need to start thinking about replacing sooner rather than later. If Moreno is still there at this pick, and the Eagles think he can improve his pass catching, this will be a tremendous value pick.
22. Minnesota Vikings
Eben Britton, OT, Arizona
Pros: Keeps all his blocks in front of him and uses his size and strength to keep defenders out of the play. Has exceptionally long arms which helps him keep a defender on the move even if he gets beat. Great straight-line run blocker who will drive defenders into the second level.
Cons: Has too much faith in his physical prowess to the point where his technique has not really developed. Will get beat a few times a game by defenders that just beat him out of his stance. Not the guy you want on screens or reverses, as he’s a bit oafish in his walk.
Minnesota is desperate to replace RT Ryan Cook, so much so that it’ll be easy to overlook holes at DT, CB, WR, and QB and take the safest bet tackle left on the board. Eben Britton isn’t a great tackle, but he’s solid, and certainly a large upgrade over converted center Cook, especially if Britton is able to learn some NFL techniques.
23. New England Patriots
Clay Matthews, LB, USC
Pros: Good speed, usually has great reaction on the snap. One of the best blitzers in the draft, he’s got a good knack for finding the gaps in the offensive line before they develop. Can play inside or outside LB equally well. A fine tackler.
Cons: A bit undersized, might be a better Safety/Floater when all is said and done. Tends to get run out of plays and swallowed up if he doesn’t hit that gap that he’s looking for. Plays too aggressively at times.
The trade of Mike Vrabel opened up a spot on the Patriot’s roster for a versatile linebacker who isn’t afraid to play some special teams and roam the field a bit. Matthews is the third of the USC linebackers to come off my draft board, and the least physically gifted, but he is probably the most useful in terms of all the different things he can do, and we all know how much Bill Belichick loves utility.
24. Atlanta Falcons
Brandon Pettigrew, Tight End, Oklahoma State
Pros: Excellent blocker, he’s not afraid to get his hands dirty with the offensive line. Solid possession receiver, who usually finds the gaps in the defense and provides a good safety valve for the quarterback. Good hands, and isn’t afraid to take a hit.
Cons: He’s not likely to break any big plays in the passing game. A great run blocker, but he’ll get beat at times in pass protection. Had some injury issues in college, and for a guy who takes as many hits as Pettigrew does, that’s not good.
It may be boring, but Atlanta needs a solid blocker on their offensive line, and an extra safety valve for Matt Ryan if he can’t get the ball to Roddy White. Nobody the Falcons tried last year at TE were able to fit the bill, but Pettigrew has the ability to be that possession guy, while also helping open up holes for Michael Turner in the running game.
25. Miami Dolphins
Vontae Davis, CB, Illinois
Pros: Solid tackler, especially for a corner. Good ball tracking skills, he will usually get a good break on the ball. Understands and diagnoses routes well.
Cons: Has good speed, but will still get burned by NFL caliber receivers. Drops a lot of easy picks. Will deliver some shots, but will also whiff on a tackle or two per game.
Miami has a lot of holes to plug in their secondary, not good when you’re facing Randy Moss and T.O. twice a year. Davis isn’t necessarily an elite corner at the next level, but he’s a tough, Parcells guy who will play better than his ability in division games.
26. Baltimore Ravens
Darius Heyward-Bey, WR, Maryland
Pros: Impressive speed, will burn defenders on a handful of plays a game. Quick feet allow him to rack up great YAC. The rare burner who isn’t afraid to play the slot.
Cons: Pretty much only knows the Slant and Go patterns, which makes defending him much easier. Not afraid to make catches in traffic, but shies away from taking hits.
Bey’s 4.3/40 shot him up a lot of people’s draft charts, before they settled down and realized that he’s essentially this year’s Devin Hester/Ted Ginn. If you can get him the ball, Heyward-Bey is fantastic, but otherwise he’s just a body on the field. The Ravens need another target for Joe Flacco though, and the temptation is probably more than they’d be able to bare.
27. Indianapolis Colts
Perria Jerry, DT, Mississippi
Pros: Good off the ball movement, will sometimes beat the center and guard to his gap. Is smart enough to use his size and leg drive to split gaps and put pressure on the quarterback.
Cons: Will get pushed out of plays by faster or stronger linemen. Mostly raw ability that needs a lot of refinement to compete at the NFL level.
Indianapolis’ defensive line is on life support as the list of competent players currently reads, “Dwight Freeney…?” Perria Jerry is the best tackle still on the board, and while it will take a while before he develops into a pass rushing force in the league, he will at least provide them with an able, warm body to start on Sundays.
28. Buffalo Bills
Robert Ayers, DE, Tennessee
Pros: Good at beating the tackle off the line. Plays the run well, with solid movement across the line of scrimmage. Very fluid, natural movement when shedding blocks.
Cons: Has a tendency to overrun the play. Sometimes gets frustrated when his natural talent isn’t enough to overwhelm the blocker. Will be outrun by faster backs.
As much as they’d probably like to, Buffalo can’t justify taking a second tackle in the first round, and while they’d probably like an upgrade at tight end, there’s not much gap between the tight ends you can take here and the ones you’ll be able to get in round 4. Ayers is a guy the Bills really like, and while he’s a project, he should provide some good plays for Buffalo this year.
29. New York Giants
James Laurinaitis, LB, Ohio State
Pros: An athlete’s athlete, makes up for all his physical limitations with drive and determination. Flies to the ball. Reads and reacts to plays extremely well. Excellent tackler.
Cons: Not the most physically gifted linebacker in the draft. Will occasionally play himself out of position or misread a scheme. Is a ball hawk, but isn’t great in coverage.
The Giants will likely try to either trade up to grab one of the earlier receivers or trade this pick for Braylon Edwards. Baring that, however, they should spend their pick upgrading their line backing corps. Laurinaitis is a great developmental prospect who would be a fantastic middle linebacker for their defense in a year or two.
30. Tennessee Titans
Darius Butler, CB, Connecticut
Pros: Great special teams and defensive player. Good eyes, sees the path of the ball well and is usually in good position to make a play on it. Not afraid to get into it with a larger receiver.
Cons: Poor tackler. Probably best suited as a nickle corner in the NFL, because he’s only 5’10” 175lbs, so he’ll get steamrolled by some of the larger receivers.
The Titans can either try to replace Albert Haynesworth or Chris Carr here, and since there’s no Haynesworth type talent in the draft this year, they’re better off giving themselves a solid return man and cornerback depth than just settle for any defensive tackle in the first round.
31. Arizona Cardinals
Michael Johnson, DE, Georgia Tech
Pros: One of the best pure athletes in the draft, all Johnson’s measurables are fantastic. He’s got good speed and long, thick arms and legs which help him engage and drive linemen.
Cons: For all his physical gifts, he’s not that great a football player. He gets frustrated easily, and will sometimes give up if he gets driven out of a play. Plays way too tall for a down lineman.
The Cardinals have some flexibility with the number 31 pick, so why not just take the best pure athlete in the draft? I’m not convinced that DE is the right place for Michael Johnson, but Arizona should stake a claim on him and see what he brings to camp. There’s too much talent there to be wasted, which is why he’s suddenly climbing up everybody’s boards.
32. Pittsburgh Steelers
Aaron Maybin, DE, Penn State
Pros: Great speed, often beats linemen off the snap. Very engaging pass rusher, moves fluidly through the offensive line to the quarterback. Solid tackler.
Cons: Needs to add about 20lbs to be taken seriously as an NFL DE. Gets beat out by less talented linemen far too often. A five star talent that plays like a four star DE.
The Steelers have a ton of flexibility here. They could go to Robinskie to replace Nate Washington, or to an offensive linemen to bolster those ranks, but again, like I said with Arizona, why not take the best athlete on the board and see what you can do? Maybe is not an NFL DE, by any means, but as a James Harrison/Joey Porter-type DE/LB hybrid, he could have a stellar career. And who better to learn from than Harrison himself?