Sunday, April 19, 2009

2009 NFL Mock Draft 3.0

"I take it upon myself to handle mine."

So now the pieces are starting to fall into place. Since the last time I was talking mock drafts, two first round picks have been moved in two separate deals (Cutler to Chicago, Peters to Philly). So, the team needs are becoming more concrete. With the draft just one week away, here is my third mock draft:

1. Detroit- Matthew Stafford, QB, Georgia: For whatever reason, the Lions could not pull off a Jay Cutler trade, and instead, they are now going to be playing against him twice a season. It was simply baffling to me that Detroit could not get any kind of deal done. If Stafford doesn't pan out, and again, I don't think he will, then the Lions are handcuffing themselves for six years and $35 million guaranteed money for a QB who might make Lions' fans reminiscent of another QB bust (Joey Harrington).

2. St. Louis- Jason Smith, OT, Baylor: For many weeks, the talk was that Eugene Monroe would be the guy going to the Rams. However, as the pro days have come and gone, and a team like the Rams have had more time to evaluate the talent on the board, it has become clear that the Rams, if they stay at #2, cannot afford to pass on Smith. He is the unanimous #1 tackle on the board.

3. Kansas City- Aaron Curry, LB, Wake Forest: This is almost too easy, which really makes me wonder, especially with Pioli at the helm now. You really never know what you are going to get with a Pioli draft. I will say this: If teams are going to trade into the top 5, they are trading up to get either Curry, or the guy going at #4...

4. Seattle- Mark Sanchez, QB, Southern Cal: I'm officially on board with the Seahawks going QB here. There are obvious question marks concerning Matt Hasselbeck's health, and despite having a nice run towards the end of the season, Seneca Wallace is not the long-term answer. Sanchez has been holding steady as a top 10 QB. Again, the 'Hawks could go for the offensive tackle, but right now, I have them taking Sanchez.

5. Cleveland- Brian Orakpo, DE/LB, Texas: I'm sticking with Orakpo here because I think Mangini is very enticed by the hybrid kind of defensive end. Remember last year, he took Vernon Gholston sixth overall, and while Gholston hasn't quite panned out yet, the Jets were huge on him going into the draft, and I feel like that kind of thinking will carry over to Cleveland. If Braylon Edwards does end up getting traded (Giants maybe?), then I see Crabtree going here. If all things stay the same, I think the Browns will focus on defense.

6. Cincinnati- Andre Smith, OT, Alabama: You have to wonder when the Bengals fans are going to start revolting kind of like the Portland fans did during the "Jailblazer" era. If this pick actually goes through, the Bengals are positioning themselves to be one of the all-time bad character teams in the history of sports.

7. Oakland- Jeremy Maclin, WR, Missouri: So this is kind of a surprise here, but then again, it's the Raiders...don't be surprised by anything they might do. My thinking here is that the Raiders will be looking for the speed aspect that Maclin brings. With Crabtree's foot still somewhat of a question mark, the Raiders will pass on him and take a guy who not only will be a very functional receiver, but also could factor into the return game (Johnnie Lee Higgins is already a great return man, but he may be counted on to be the #1 receiver this year, meaning the Raiders may limit the amount of returns he gets).

8. Jacksonville- Eugene Monroe, OT, Virginia: It looks like the Jags are very close to acquiring Torry Holt, and while that will not completely eliminate the need for a receiver, it definitely lessens the burden they may have been feeling to fill the spot with the eighth pick. The Jags already let their starting left tackle walk (Khalif Barnes, who signed with Oakland), and don't appear to have anyone to fill the spot in. Also, considering the recent bad luck the Jags have had with receivers in the first round (Matt Jones and Reggie Williams), you would think they would go anti-Detroit and stray away from taking a receiver here.

9. Green Bay- B.J. Raji, DT, Boston College: There is still a bit of uncertainty about whether or not Raji actually tested positive at the combine. I don't really understand the confusion. It's pretty much a black and white issue. He either did or he didn't...what's the problem? In any event, because you're supposedly innocent until proven guilty, and because I'm a gigantic homer, I'm going to just assume that it's all a hoax, kind of like Vince Young's wonderlic test.

10. San Francisco- Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech: I'm going to stand pat with this pick as well. If you're the Niners, how can you really pass on Crabtree at 10? Before his injury, he was one of the options to go #1 overall to Detroit. If they are convinced that his injury will not slow him down in '09, then I don't think San Fran can afford to let him get away.

11. Buffalo- Michael Oher, OT, Ole Miss: With the Jason Peters trade, immediately left tackle becomes one of the biggest needs for the Bills. When you trade a Pro Bowl-caliber tackle, you are basically sending a message that "we are totally confident that we can find a similar type player in the first round who can step in from Day 1." I think Oher is the recipient of bad luck, going in a draft where tackle is the deepest position by far in the first round. Most other years, he's a top 5 pick.

12. Denver- Everette Brown, DE/LB, Florida State: There are two schools of thought as to what the Broncos are going to do with their two first-rounders. They could address the defense, which was just dreadful last year, with both picks, or they could go quarterback with either Josh Freeman, or package picks to move up to take Mark Sanchez. For right now, I think they will go defense with both picks, and ride out Kyle Orton as the starting QB (just saying that is scary...I can't even imagine what's going on in Denver right now).

13. Washington- Robert Ayers, DE, Tennessee: I think Washington is hoping that one of the top four tackles falls to them at 13, but in this mock, all four are off the board at this point. So, the 'Skins will look to sure up the end position. With Jason Taylor gone, and the health of Phillip Daniels up in the air, Washington has a glaring hole opposite of Andre Carter on the line.

14. New Orleans- Chris "Beanie" Wells, RB, Ohio State: I never really even thought about running back here, and then I started looking at other mocks, and re-evaluating the Saints' backfield. New Orleans has Reggie Bush, and then after that, it seems like they have an ever-changing rotation of backs like Pierre Thomas and Aaron Stecker following. The thing about Bush is that he's an explosive playmaker, but he's simply not an every-down kind of back. So, picking a running back in the first round actually makes a lot of sense.

15. Houston- Clay Matthews, LB, Southern Cal: What I hear coming out of Houston is that they are looking at two players here: Matthews and Malcolm Jenkins. Right now, the read is that they will be going linebacker, so from everything I can gather, they have Matthews #1 on the board at linebacker after Curry.

16. San Diego- Rey Maualuga, LB, Southern Cal: I seem to recall the Chargers having another Samoan inside linebacker from Southern Cal back in the day (Seau)...and I think that worked out pretty well.

17. New York Jets- Josh Freeman, QB, Kansas State: The Jets are another team that really could have benefited from a Jay Cutler deal. It really puzzles me that the Bears were able to pull that deal off. It's not like they were set at QB by any means, but they at least had two guys who have played at a decent level in the pros (Orton and Grossman). The Lions and the Jets have no one. Am I supposed to believe that the Jets can seriously contend for a playoff spot with Kellen Clemens calling the plays? This is a tentative pick for me because I just can't see the Jets entering next season with Clemens and that's it. So, they either go QB, or they use a pick in the second or third round (Nate Davis? Rhett Bomar? Stephen McGee?) to add some depth.

18. Denver- Brian Cushing, LB, Southern Cal: Again, I think the Broncos double-down on defense. Cushing gives them some linebacker depth, which they have none of, and was made evident last year when D.J. Williams was hurt.

19. Tampa Bay- Aaron Maybin, DE/LB, Penn State: From the start, everyone had the Bucs taking Freeman here. However, it's looking like the Bucs may have to trade up into the top 15 to grab Freeman (Washington at 13 is an ideal candidate). If they stay at 19, Maybin is not the worst consolation prize. The Bucs basically released their entire linebacking core, so this would address a need for sure.

20. Detroit- Malcolm Jenkins, CB, Ohio State: I think the reason Jenkins is falling is because no one knows exactly what to make of him. Can he play corner at an elite level, or does he fit the mold of a safety more? In any event, the Lions need everything, so what they do here is take the best player available, and then figure out how he will fit into the system.

21. Philadelphia- Knowshon Moreno, RB, Georgia: With Buckhalter going to Denver, the Eagles are in need of giving some help for Brian Westbrook. It's also an encouraging sign about Moreno that he was able to catch balls more fluently out of the backfield this year (he previously had not had a receiving TD until this year). If Moreno's game continues to evolve, he could step in right from the start and be a comparable #2 back.

22. Minnesota- Max Unger, C, Oregon: It appears now that the Vikings will not be screwing around in terms of finding a replacement for Matt Birk. While they could go receiver here, I think they stay on the offensive line here. I like Unger, Ebir Britton, or Alex Mack going here. I think as we get closer to the draft, I'll be able to get a better read on this one.

23. New England- Larry English, DE/LB, Northern Illinois: Despite a lot of people throwing a ton of weight on the fact that Belichick attended the UConn pro day in person (Mel Kiper has Donald Brown here, others, like Mike Mayock on NFL Network, have Darius Butler here), I still think the Pats have almost no choice but to get a playmaking pass-rusher here. If you watched one, maybe two Pats games last year, you would be able to realize just how awful the pass rush was last year.

Sorry to break away from the draft for a little bit, but I do have to mention something real quick. On Tuesday, the NFL schedules were announced, and the CBS Scene at Patriot Place was having a little shindig that included a raffle for two tickets to the home opener on Monday Night Football against Buffalo (which, not going to lie, is the only reason I went). Also, NFL Network cameras were there, Bob Kraft was there, etc. Anyway, I ran into Brian Lowe there. For those of you who do not know who that is, he is the co-anchor of "Patriots Today," a daily show that puts together. Anyway, being the pesky draftnik that I am, I couldn't help but ask him some questions about the draft.

Basically, Brian was in agreement with me in saying that the Pats should go defense in the first round. Now, the position may not be linebacker, but in running down the players that we both thought the Pats would go for there (Clay Matthews and Larry English most notably), it seems like if the Pats can get a hybrid kind of outside player, like they have with Adalius Thomas, then they would grab him at 23.

I was surprised at the fact that Brian was not very big on Aaron Maybin, who I have off the board at this point. I think he shared the same concerns as a lot of people have about Julius Peppers, or any linebacker they could potentially take here, which are the covering abilities of the linebacker they get. Peppers is a great pass-rusher, but if he were to play OLB in the 3-4, it would require him to be able to drop back into coverage. Maybin fits the Peppers mold in that he is very good at getting to the QB, but his coverage skills are a question mark.

The next topic we discussed was the idea that it was almost an impossibility that the Pats would keep all three of their second round picks. So, do they trade up, or trade out of the picks? When we recalled some of the instances the Pats moved up the board (Bethel Johnson in '03, Chad Jackson in '06), we quickly realized two things: 1) The Pats are not good going up the board, and 2.) They do not draft receivers very well. Outside of Deion Branch and David Givens, the Pats have really had no luck at drafting receivers (I was looking at a column in...I want to say the Sun-Chronicle...where they outlined the ten biggest draft busts of the Belichick era, and like five of them were receivers). So, the thought went back to trading out of the second and grabbing a first for next year. To do this, it would require that they give up either #34, which of course was the Cassel/Vrabel compensation, or #47, which they got from San Diego last year, to pull this off. A couple of issues arise with this though. The 34th pick is incredibly valuable this year, but the Pats really could use that pick to address even more of their defensive needs (we discussed Alphonso Smith, Darius Butler, Connor Barwin, Louis Delmas, and if they're lucky, Vontae Davis here).

Then, with the 47th pick, the talks immediately went to Pat White, who is probably the most intriguing prospect in the entire draft. I think many on the inside are in consensus in saying that White is not going to be an every-down QB, but what he does bring to the table is a guy you could bring in to run the Wildcat, another receiving option, and an emergency QB. Remember that right now, the Pats have Brady, Kevin O'Connell, Matt Gutierrez...and that's pretty much it. I'm not sure if the Pats have the right personnel to run a Wildcat though. The running backs they do have right now are bruisers, whereas the Wildcat requires more of a finesse style. I'm not as huge on White coming here as others are, but still, it remains a very interesting possibility.

The last question I has for Brian was who does he think is a guy, regardless of what round he is supposedly going to go in, would be able to make the transition from a college system to the Patriots' system the best. Three names that came up were English, Barwin, and Clint Sintim. I thought Sintim was a great choice, and I was in total agreement with Brian on that. Sintim played at UVA, and the Wahoos are one of the few college teams that implements a 3-4 formation in their defense. So, I would say to keep an eye out for Sintim when these second-rounders start coming up.

...and now, back to the draft...

24. Atlanta- Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Oklahoma State: If Philly passes on Pettigrew at 21, which is a real possibility because they now only have one first round pick, then Pettigrew is a slam dunk to land with the Falcons. Again, the focus should continue to be getting help for Matty Ice, and Pettigrew is easily the best tight end in this year's draft.

25. Miami- Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Maryland: While I originally was thinking defensive back here, I have been reading about Miami going cross-country working out every receiver outside of the Crabtree/Maclin pairing that could fall to the end of the first round. Bey continues to be the third rated receiver on the board, so he goes off here to the Dolphins.

26. Baltimore- Hakeem Nicks, WR, North Carolina: I know that the Ravens need help at cornerback, but what was an even more glaring weakness watching them in the playoffs, and especially the AFC Championship against Pittsburgh, was that Baltimore simply does not have a big possession receiver. Mark Clayton has not panned out the way they thought he would. I think outside of Crabtree, Nicks will have the biggest immediate impact on whatever team he ends up on.

27. Indianapolis- Peria Jerry, DT, Ole Miss: Well, the Colts literally have no one playing defensive tackle for them right now, so this one becomes fairly easy. Still, you can never go against the Colts taking a receiver in the first round (Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, Anthony Gonzalez).

28. Buffalo- Tyson Jackson, DE, LSU: So this all kind of works out for the Bills. They trade away their left tackle, but then draft Oher, and now, they get a top-5 DE as well. Not bad at all. I am between Jackson and Michael Johnson, who I had going to Buffalo in the last version at #11.

29. New York Giants- Kenny Britt, WR, Rutgers: The G-Men cut Plax, meaning that their receiving corps consists of Steve Smith, Amani Toomer, Mario Mannigham, and Domenik Hixon, and we all saw how that went against Philly in the divisional round last year. Britt is a playmaking receiver. The knock on him is his character, so it remains to be seen if that is going to keep him out of the first round. If it does, I like Percy Harvin here instead.

30. Tennessee- Vontae Davis, CB, Illinois: Again, another guy with the whole "character issue" thing going against him. However, if the Titans do take a risk, they are getting a top-15 talent at the end of the first round. The Titans have really been able to build up a nice secondary through the draft, and this would be another piece that could put them even closer to contending for the AFC crown.

31. Arizona- Donald Brown, RB, Connecticut: I think Brown sneaks into the first round because of the on-going saga going on in Arizona with Edge and the ineffectiveness of Tim Hightower. They definitely have other needs, but the running game, which was surprisingly effective in the Super Bowl run last year, still needs a boost.

32. Pittsburgh- Alex Mack, C, California: No matter what spot on the line the Steelers choose to fill here, I think it's safe to say that the Steelers almost have to go with an offensive lineman here. Pittsburgh was lucky Santonio Holmes has a long reach, otherwise, the talk would have been about the O-Line getting run over throughout the playoffs.

So, there is version number three. I will come as close to a 100% guarantee as I can in saying that there will be at least one more version up before Saturday. That's all for now. I hope all the kids out there have a good April Vacation, and also, an early happy Patriots' Day to everyone out there. This year, Patriots' Day falls on April 20th...Marathon Day, 11:00 Sox game, Celts and Bruins that night...4/20...imagine the possibilities. Anyway, take care everyone. Peace.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Why in the world would you have the Bengals going with a character concerned tackle (you're comment argues against it), when Monroe is on the board?