We are now just over one week away from draft day. And now seems like a good time to update my mock draft for the first time in April.
1. Detroit Lions - Matthew Stafford, QB, Georgia
It's beginning to look more and more like Stafford will be Detroit's pick. And I agree with it. I think Stafford can be a franchise quarterback. He has all the physical tools you want in a quarterback. The Lions have a new coaching staff, new logo, new uniforms, and will now have a new face of their franchise.
2. St. Louis Rams - Jason Smith, OT, Baylor
The Rams took their first step towards improving their offensive line by signing center Jason Brown. They can take that next step by getting their stud left tackle to replace their previous stud left tackle, Orlando Pace, who they released earlier this offseason. Jason Smith and Eugene Monroe are the top 2 tackles in the draft. I think that Smith is a better fit for the Rams and what they want to do - be a power running team with Steven Jackson.
3. Kansas City Chiefs - Aaron Curry, LB, Wake Forest
I think that the Chiefs will go one of two ways here. They could decide to take Virginia OT Eugene Monroe and bookend him with his former college teammate, Branden Albert, who KC took in round one last year. That would make a lot of sense as well, investing in Matt Cassel's protection. But I think that KC's need for a linebacker - especially when it happens to be the draft's top defensive player - will win out here. He'll also have a damn good mentor in the recently signed Zach Thomas.
4. Seattle Seahawks - Eugene Monroe, OT, Virginia
With the signing of T.J. Houshmandzadeh, I don't see Seattle taking Crabtree here as I once thought. I don't think B.J. Raji is the pick, either, following their acquisition of Cory Redding. With OT Walter Jones getting up there in age and coming off oc microfracture surgery, investing in a top tackle has got to be a priority. Monroe is probably the least risky tackle in this draft and would be a great way to improve upon a unit that allowed 36 sacks in '08 - 13th most in the league last year.
5. Cleveland Browns - Brian Orakpo, DE/OLB, Texas
I previously thought that Malcolm Jenkins could go here because Cleveland's secondary is terrible. But his stock is falling. Meanwhile, a top pass rusher is still a need. The Browns only tallied 17 sacks in 2007 - the 2nd fewest in the league. Orakpo performed very well at his pro day - which was important following his early exit from the Combine drills. He's probably the top pass rusher available in this draft and would provide an instant upgrade as a pass rusher right off the bat.
6. Cincinnati Bengals - Andre Smith, OT, Alabama
Leave it to the Bengals to make the controversial pick in the top 10. Smith might have the most physical talent of all the tackles in the draft. But his off-the-field issues have raised some red flags. However, the Bengals must invest in protecting their franchise quarterback. Cincinnati allowed 51 sacks in '08 - the third most in the league. Smith might be a bit risky, but his talent is unquestionable. And the Bengals never seem to shy away from players who have "character red flags."
7. Oakland Raiders - Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech
This would be a shame, really, for a guy like Crabtree to land in Oakland - where great potential seems to be wasted on a regular basis. And while many out there think that Al Davis needs a 40 yard dash time to draft a skill position player, I don't think he's dumb enough to pass on the draft's best receiver here. I could see Oakland deciding to sure up their interior defensive line by taking B.J. Raji here instead. But I think Al's obsession with skill positions will lead him to select the talented receiver.
8. Jacksonville Jaguars - B.J. Raji, DT, Boston College
The Jaguars need a left tackle, but the top three are already off the board. They could also use a corner, but I just don't think that the top corners deserve to be taken this high. They also need a wide receiver. But I think they can wait until their second round pick (39th overall) to fill that void. Raji makes sense here for the Jags. They lack that big, physical presence along their interior defensive line to team with John Henderson like the used to have. And that's what Raji is.
9. Green Bay Packers - Everette Brown, DE/OLB, Florida State
The Packers are switching to a 3-4 defensive scheme this offseason and the team lacks that classic 3-4 pass-rushing outside linebacker. Brown is just that - a true pass rusher. A lot of people think a corner could go here, but I just don't see that as a higher priority than a pass rusher. After all, the 3-4 simply doesn't work without pass-rushing linebackers.
10. San Francisco 49ers - Michael Oher, OT, Mississippi
While many will make a case for Mark Sanchez landing in San Francisco, but I just don't see it. I'm torn here between a pass-rushing OLB like Aaron Maybin and a right tackle that they can pair with Joe Staley as bookends for the foreseeable future. And while the Niners did sign Marvel Smith, it's very risky to count on a guy who has missed 16 games over the past 2 seasons.
11. Buffalo Bills - Aaron Maybin, DE, Penn State
The Bills need a pass rusher and Maybin, having recently turned 21, has a ton of upside.
12. Denver Broncos - Mark Sanchez, QB, USC
Sanchez would be an ideal fit to run the kind of offense that Josh McDaniels will be installing in Denver.
13. Washington Redskins - Brian Cushing, LB, USC
Would be an ideal fit replacing the recently released Marcus Washington at OLB.
14. New Orleans Saints - Malcolm Jenkins, CB, Ohio State
The Saints still need secondary help and Jenkins could play either corner or safety in New Orleans.
15. Houston Texans - Clay Matthews, LB, USC
The "Matthews" name is like royalty in Houston. Oh - and they happen to need a solid linebacker to play along side DeMeco Ryans.
16. San Diego Chargers - Rey Maualuga, LB, USC
Maualuga is the reliable inside linebacker that the Chargers have been looking for who can step right in and have a positive impact on San Diego's defense.
17. New York Jets - Josh Freeman, QB, Kansas State
The Jets need offensive firepower through the air. A wide receiver would be the pick, but I think Freeman offers NY too much value to pass up on - especially when your current quarterbacks are not very good.
18. Denver Broncos - Tyson Jackson, DE, LSU
The Broncos need help in their front seven as they make the switch to a 3-4 and Jackson is the prototypical 3-4 defensive end.
19. Tampa Bay Bucs - Michael Johnson, DE, Georgia Tech
The Bucs need more help on their defensive line. Their starter opposite of Gaines Adams is the aging Kevin Carter. Johnson is a guy with tremendous physical ability and Raheem Morris is just the coach to tap into all that talent.
20. Detroit Lions - Eben Britton, OT, Arizona
Having gotten their franchise QB with their first pick, investing in protecting that QB makes a lot of sense.
21. Philadelphia Eagles - Knowshon Moreno, RB, Georgia
Brian Westbrook isn't getting any younger and he's always been a "fragile" back. With Correll Buckhalter now in Denver, the Eagles need a guy who can compliment their aging star RB.
22. Minnesota Vikings - Jeremy Maclin, WR, Missouri
The Vikings could use a RT, but the top 5 tackles are gone already. So they take the biggest playmaker remaining on the board.
23. New England Patriots - Donald Brown, RB, Connecticut
Let's just chalk this pick up to a "hunch" I have. I will say, though, that I strongly feel that Brown is the second best back in this draft, trailing only Moreno.
24. Atlanta Falcons - Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Oklahoma St.
Atlanta has a hole at tight end and Pettigrew is the draft's best all-around TE. He'll block well for Michael Turner and will provide a reliable target for Matt Ryan.
25. Miami Dolphins - Darius Butler, CB, Connecticut
I'll admit it - this is the first year in a while where I'm completely stumped on what the Dolphins will do with their first round pick. It's that wide open - and Bill Parcells never lets any info leak out. We all know that the Dolphins could go in a variety of directions here - with CB, OLB, and WR the three most likely. So why do I think Butler is now the guy?
I just don't think Bill Parcells and Jeff Ireland will spend a first round pick on a WR when it's known that Bill thinks receivers are "a dime a dozen." There is some good value at the receiver position in rounds 2 through 4 this year. And I don't think any remaining outside linebacker on the board is worthy of the 25th pick. Butler, meanwhile, has the ability to come right in and battle for the starting corner job opposite Will Allen. He has the best footwork of all the corners in the draft. He also probably possesses the best change of direction ability of all the corners. And his 43 inch vertical makes up for his lack of ideal size - though he certainly isn't short at 5'10 and a half.
26. Baltimore Ravens - Vontae Davis, CB, Illinois
Davis has unquestioned talent. It's his character and work ethic that some worry about - though I'm not particularly concerned myself.
27. Indianapolis Colts - Peria Jerry, DT, Mississippi
The Colts have an obvious need at defensive tackle and Jerry is a steal this late in round one.
28. Philadelphia Eagles - William Beatty, OT, Connecticut
The Eagles have a hole to fill following the departure of Tra Thomas and Beatty could step in and man the left tackle spot right from the get go.
29. New York Giants - Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Maryland
The Giants have a clear need at wide receiver right now and, while a player like Hakeem Nicks or Kenny Britt might fit their style better, Heyward-Bey provides better draft value for the Giants.
30. Tennessee Titans - Robert Ayers, DE, Tennessee
I think the Titans will hold off on taking a wide receiver and address their defensive line. Javon Kearse is aging and not as productive as he once was while Kyle Vanden Bosch had some injury issues last year.
31. Arizona Cardinals - Chris Wells, RB, Ohio State
Wells is the ultimate wildcard in terms of where he could be drafted in round one. If he does make it this far, there's no way the Cards pass on him - teaming him with Tim Hightower in their backfield.
32. Pittsburgh Steelers - Max Unger, G/C, Oregon
The Steelers surrendered too many sacks last year. They have to protect their franchise quarterback - who has taken a beating the past couple of years. Unger provides position flexibility along their offensive line.
So there is my latest mock draft. I'll update it one more time next week and then see how I fare.
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