I’ve been wanting to post a mock draft on here for a while. But I wanted to do one that was fairly accurate without too much projection. So I decided to minimize the number of underclassmen I’d include. I’ve only tried to include the underclassmen that have already declared. There are a handful of exceptions, but all of them are guys that I’m fairly confident will enter or otherwise fill an obvious need that just meant less work on my part racking my brain to figure out what a team might do. The draft order is reflective of the standings after Week 15.
1. ST. LOUIS RAMS – DT Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska
Some have compared the Rams potentially dilemma of going with the all-world defensive tackle vs. the future franchise QB as the same as the Falcons dilemma in 2008 when they had to choose between Matt Ryan and Glenn Dorsey. The two players involved this time are Suh and Sam Bradford. The difference mainly is that Bradford is injured when Ryan was not. Bradford’s shoulder injury could cost him much of the off-season, and if he cannot work out, then it’s unlikely he will go No. 1. Now in the event of a tie, the quarterback will always win as it was the case with the Falcons in ’08. But if Bradford isn’t a definite bet to be healthy by the start of the season, then it behooves the Rams to wait until the second round to find their passer and not miss out on Suh. The Rams have spent several high picks in recent years on defensive linemen, and that might make them a bit weary about drafting another. But neither Carriker nor Long have paid huge dividends to date, and coach Steve Spagnuolo from his tenure in New York won’t be afraid to add another linemen if he believes it will help. Suh definitely can. He’s a top run stuffer, but also has great potential as a pass rusher.
2. DETROIT LIONS – DT Gerald McCoy, Oklahoma
You can be sure the Lions will address one of their lines with their top pick. While cornerback is probably their weakest position not the roster, they are too high in the draft to select that position this high. Instead, they will try to go and solidify themselves in the trenches. They need a left tackle and a player like Russell Okung would fill a big need, but McCoy is just the better prospect. He’s a disruptive presence in the interior line that isn’t a great run stuffer, but will certainly help the Lions lacking pass rush. He can team with Sammie Lee Hill to add a nice combo of quickness and size.
3. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS – OT Anthony Davis, Rutgers*
The Bucs at this point are probably hoping that McCoy falls to them since he would fill a big need for them. He and Suh will fit very nicely on their defense and match up nicely for the future with Roy Miller. But if neither defensive tackle is available, then their best option is probably to address their offensive tackle position. While Donald Penn and Jeremy Trueblood aren’t bad, they aren’t exceptionally good. The Bucs think that they need to improve their run blocking, and Davis can definitely do that. Davis can play either side to the line as he has the athleticism to play the left, and the size and strength to power his way on the right. Both Penn and Trueblood are free agents this year, and it’s possible one will not be back. Trueblood is probably the more likely to leave since teams put a bit more of a priority on any decent left tackle.
4. CLEVELAND BROWNS – S Eric Berry, Tennessee* (undeclared)
As I said I tried to limit the number of undeclared underclassmen in this draft, but Berry is almost a sure bet to enter the draft, and he would be the perfect pick for the Browns at this spot. Brodney Pool’s career may be in jeopardy due to chronic concussions, and Abram Elam and Mike Adams are more inline with backup talent than starters. Berry is play-making ballhawk that probably will be used as a free safety in the pros (he plays strong at Tennessee) because of his range, instincts, and lack of ideal size. He’ll slide in nicely into their defense. If for some reason Berry decides to stay in school, then the Browns will likely take an offensive linemen or quarterback here. Sam Bradford is probably Option B here since Brady Quinn hasn’t done enough to instill a lot of confidence in new GM Mike Holmgren as the quarterback of the future. But Quinn has flashed enough ability that it’s likely the Browns will avoid using their No. 1 pick on a quarterback if at all possible.
5. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS – OT Russell Okung, Oklahoma State
What the Chiefs really need is a nose tackle to plug the middle, but expect them to do whatever they can possible in free agency to plug that hole. Also they need to add bodies at linebacker to fit their 3-4, but this draft is oddly devoid of prime 3-4 fodder at the top of the draft. So instead they will settle for upgrading their left tackle position. Branden Albert had a solid rookie season, but didn’t progress as much as hoped as a sophomore. Now it seems the plan will be to upgrade the left tackle position and move him elsewhere on the line. Albert played left guard at Virginia, and with the potential retirement of Brian Waters this off-season, it seems likely that he could return to that position next year for the Chiefs. Okung is a good left tackle prospect with upside. He has the athleticism and build of a classic left tackle. He can be inconsistent at times, but the sky is the limit on his potential. There have been better left tackle prospects in recent years available this high in the draft, but Okung will most likely be a top five pick this year because of potential and a number of teams that have a strong need for the position.
6. WASHINGTON REDSKINS – QB Sam Bradford, Oklahoma*
The Redskins have flirted with quarterbacks in recent drafts and Jason Campbell’s play this past year likely will cause them to end the courtship and go and get someone. Bradford’s injury is a blessing for them since it means he’s unlikely to go No. 1 in the draft. And Bradford fits well in Washington, because Campbell’s play in the second half of the season has been good enough that he may return for another year. But even so, it’ll likely be just to keep the seat warm for one season until Bradford is healthy and ready to go. Since all indications appear that Mike Shanahan is going to be the new boss in Washington, it’s almost a certainty that they will use one of their high picks on a passer. Bradford isn’t a perfect fit in Shanahan’s offense, but he’s probably the best option they have given this year’s class of quarterbacks.
7. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS – CB Joe Haden, Florida* (undeclared)
Haden is another undeclared junior that is almost a lock to enter this year’s draft. He’s by far the best corner in the country, and the dropoff from him to the next best corner is so significantly that it should only push his stock even further. Haden is a playmaker with good athleticism, instincts, and ball skills. The Seahawks really want to get a left tackle in the first round of the draft, but with Okung and Davis off the board, they may take the risk and hope that someone is available when they pick later with their other first rounder. Marcus Trufant has struggled this season since coming back from his injury, and Josh Wilson has flashed potential, but is widely regarded as a nickel back rather than a starter. Haden gives them at the very least a solid No. 2 corner, but also a guy that can potentially be a No. 1 guy if Trufant doesn’t bounce back.
8. DENVER BRONCOS (from CHICAGO) – WR Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State*
Okay, the Broncos needs are such that ideally they will take the best defensive linemen available at this point in the draft. A player like Carlos Dunlap would be a good fit because he would do well in the 3-4, but due to recent off-field issues it’s a question mark whether Dunlap will go pro and whether teams will risk drafting him in the Top 10. A linebacker would also make sense here and if Alabama’s Rolando McClain declares, then he would be a good fit to team with D.J. Williams in the middle. But if not, then that leaves the Broncos looking elsewhere. Brandon Marshall has had a good season, but it remains to be seen if the Broncos give him the extension he wants after this season. I would bet that they do, but they may ask him to try and prove it again and make him play under a franchise tag for one year. But even if they do re-sign him, the Broncos have a need for a second option. Eddie Royal had a promising rookie season, but has essentially laid an egg this year. At this point, they may move forward with him being a third option rather than a starter. Dez Bryant would then fit nicely as a second option to Marshall. Bryant isn’t the greatest character guy out there, but he’s a heck of a player. He’s got size, speed, and playmaking ability that when coupled with Marshall could really make the Broncos offense dynamic. And he offers ideal insurance in case Marshall regresses off the field.
9. BUFFALO BILLS – OT Trent Williams, Oklahoma
The Bills may also have a dilemma at the top of the draft. They will have a new coach, and it remains to be seen if the new guy will want to move in a new direction at quarterback. Trent Edwards hasn’t progressed as much as hoped, and few view Ryan Fitzpatrick as a legit starter. So at this point in the draft a player like Notre Dame’s Jimmy Clausen would look really good. The problem is that I believe that most NFL teams will view the gap between Clausen and some of the second round QB prospects (Colt McCoy, Sean Canfield, Tony PIke, Tim Tebow) won’t be significant enough to merit using a Top 10 pick on Clausen. So there is a good possibility that Clausen has somewhat of a free-fall down the draft like fellow Irish passer BRady Quinn did a few years back. Now, I say this knowing that there seems to be an outside chance that a guy like Charlie Weis lands on his feet in Buffalo. If that happens, then disregard everything I just said. But since that hasn’t happened yet, I won’t assume it will. And with that being the case, the Bills have a desperate need to fill at left tackle. Trading Jason Peters has proved to be a mistake despite the fact that he is/was a bit overrated. Trent Williams is not your ideal option to replace him, and the Bills would like to see a player like Okung or Davis be available at this spot. But Williams is probably the best option of what remains on the board. Williams excelled as a right tackle at Oklahoma and had some growing pains this past year moving to the left side. He’s good enough to play the left side in the pros, but ideally would play the right side. The Bills also need a right tackle, and if they can somehow manage to secure their left tackle spot in free agency (doubtful at this point), then Williams would still be a nice pickup. Other possibilities here include Rolando McClain or Dez Bryant.
10. OAKLAND RAIDERS – DE Derrick Morgan, Georgia Tech* (undeclared)
I know it sounds crazy, but the Raiders don’t have a glaring need. Okay, I should qualify that by saying they don’t think they have a glaring need. They could go quarterback, but Bruce Gradkowski has played well enough that they may not want to devote a big chunk of guaranteed money to another passer. They need offensive line help, but if Williams is off the board, then there is no other player that is a great fit here. Wide receiver is a weakness, but Al Davis is deluded enough to believe that Darrius Heyward-Bey is still salvageable, and if Dez Bryant is off the board they shouldn’t be that tempted to pull a Matt Millen and draft another wide receiver. So that means the Raiders could be the first team to go “best player available” and in this case that appears to be undeclared junior Derrick Morgan. Morgan is the top edge pass rusher in this class, and if he declares almost certainly will be a Top 10 pick. And while almost every team in the Top 10 could use him, nobody has an overwhelming need at defensive end to take him yet. Morgan has the size and athleticism that teams love at this position and is comparable prospect to Mario Williams or Julius Peppers in that regard. Because of that there is a good possibility he could be a Top 5 pick with the Lions an Bucs the most likely candidates. The Raiders don’t have a strong need for a defensive end because there are strong signs that they will tag Richard Seymour this off-season, and Matt Shaughnessy and Jay Richardson have flashed ability as young developing ends. But you can bet that Seymour won’t agree to a long-term contract, and drafting a player like Morgan will off-set some of the egg that will be on the face of Al Davis if/when Seymour walks in 2011.
11. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS – OT Bryan Bulaga, Iowa* (undeclared)
The Niners are a team that could fix a considerable number of their needs in free agency. Those include bolstering the pass rush and getting help in the secondary. Their top need is getting a right tackle, and they’d probably prefer drafting someone that can be a fixture for years to come. Bulaga hasn’t declared and I’m not sure he will, but he does fill a top need and fit nicely for the 49ers. Like most Big Ten tackles, he’s a better run blocker than pass protector. He plays the left side for Iowa, but probably fits better on the right in the NFL as he is comparable to a less polished Jake Long. If they were to lose a player like Aubrayo Franklin this off-season, that would open a void here that might need addressing, but since it seems likely Franklin will be tagged that seems a remote possibility.
12. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (from CAROLINA) – OLB Sergio Kindle, Texas
The 49ers pass rush got off to a slow start with Manny Lawson and Parys Haralson not being very productive at the beginning of the season. But in the second half of the season, their production improved and they also got contributions from Ahmad Brooks. So there isn’t as big a need at this spot as their appeared to be in October. And again, this is an area that they could try and bolster via free agency since there is a dearth of quality 3-4 outside linebackers at the top of the draft. There are plenty of players that fit the scheme and would help, but almost all of them appear more like late first round/early second round talent than Top 15 talent. Kindle could be the lone exception there as he’s a top athlete that is similar to Brian Orakpo, who is having a strong rookie season in Washington. Another position that could be addressed is strong safety as the team wants to groom someone behind Michael Lewis. Texas’s Earl Thomas would fit as well as USC’s Taylor Mays. But Mays is a bit too raw despite his great potential to take this high, and there are indications that Thomas may return to school for another year. Cornerback would also work if Haden falls here. The 49ers probably won’t pick a quarterback in the first round. Alex Smith has played well enough that there are enough folks in San Francisco that believe he is salvageable as a starter with potential to develop. They are probably wrong, but if/when the 49ers go quarterback, it’s most likely to be with a second or third round pick than a first rounder.
13. PITTSBURGH STEELERS – RB C.J. Spiller, Clemson
Okay, the Steelers have a lot more pressing issues than running back. They need to upgrade their pass protection, also potentially draft a replacement to Casey Hampton at nose tackle, and improve their depth in the secondary. And all of those areas could be addressed with this pick. But unless one of the other tackles drops here, this is probably too high a spot for them to take a guy like Bruce Campbell, who has great upside but is a bit raw. This is also probably too high for a player ilke Terrence Cody, who I’d be surprised is a Top 15 pick because of his conditioning issues. UNC’s Marvin Austin is a nice possibility that has upside to develop into a Vince Wilfork-like nose tackle. but he’s undeclared as of now. And a safety like Earl Thomas or Taylor Mays could work, but again Thomas is undeclared and Mays is a bit too raw. So that leaves them going after Spiller. Rashard Mendenhall has had a nice solid year leading the way, but Willie Parker has fallen off fairly hard in recent years. And there is a need to bolster depth here. Spiller is a Reggie Bush-like player that gives the Steelers offense another explosive weapon that will go along with Santonio Holmes and Mike Wallace. He’s not your classic Steeler running back, but Pittsburgh really is about as ideal a place for Spiller to land.
14. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS – QB Jimmy Clausen, Notre Dame*
The Jaguars really want to upgrade their pass rush, and if he declares, someone like USC’s Everson Griffen might be a perfect fit here. But if not, then Clausen is probably a good Option B. David Garrard is a caretaker QB that is good when he can rely upon the ground game to make the offense go, but the minute you ask him to carry it, he crumbles. But as such, due to his recent extension, it’s doubtful the Jags will dump Garrard anytime soon. He may play for another one or two seasons, and that is the best situation for a guy like Clausen. There will be clamoring for the Jaguars to go for a defender here and try and get Tim Tebow in the second round because of local support. And if the right pass rusher is available that could be an option. But until Dunlap and/or Griffen declare, we’ll go quarterback here. Clausen has the arm, smarts, and skills to be a successful NFL quarterback. The biggest concerns are whether he can perform in pressure situations and has great leadership. There were similar concerns about Brady Quinn when he left Notre Dame, and like Quinn, you can expect Clausen to fall out of the Top 10.
15. ATLANTA FALCONS – CB Perrish Cox, Oklahoma State
Again, if a pass rusher like Griffen declares he would make a lot of sense here, but since he has not, then the Falcons will have to look in other directions. The Falcons have a definite need for a cornerback, and Cox may be the best of what is a relatively weak group after you get past Joe Haden. But Cox has two things the Falcons will covet at this position: size and speed. Cox matches up very well with bigger wideouts, something the Falcons will need as they try and find someone that can slow down Marques Colston. Cox is a bit raw, but has potential to develop into a top corner. He can come in right away and compete on defense, and even if he’s a slow starter, he can provide a spark as a return threat on special teams.
16. HOUSTON TEXANS – CB Patrick Robinson, Florida State
The Texans would love to upgrade their running game, and getting a big, physical runner to team with Steve Slaton will be a goal this off-season. But the stock of running backs can be hit and miss since teams don’t like paying a lot of money for guys that don’t have long shelf lives. A player like Georgia Tech’s Jonathan Dwyer would be a good fit, but he’s yet to declare. He probably will, but the Texans could probably trade down and still pick him up later in the first. And since I’m not here predicting trades, they’ll have to go in a different direction. Dunta Robinson is a free agent, and he might be retained under the franchise tag for another year, but either way they will have to replace him in the lineup. They like their young corners in Brice McCain and Glover Quin, but neither has the requisite upside to fill Robinson’s spot as No. 1 corner. So why not replace one Robinson with another? Patrick Robinson has a lot of upside, and at times is too inconsistent to be a premier corner prospect. But he does have the potential to be a top corner at the next level, and ideally could sit for a year behind Dunta Robinson before he’s asked to assume a starting mantle. But he has all the things you look for in a corner: size, speed, athleticism, and toughness.