With the NFL Draft still a good 26 days away, what better time than the present to compile meaningless information and assemble a mock draft? I won't waste time with the details, but I've scoured the internet for rumors and combined that information with my own team analysis.
*Please note* As with the real NFL draft, teams are forced to adapt to what others in front of them have done. Selections were made accordingly.
Analysis : The Lions defy conventional wisdom here and select the best defensive player on the board. The free agent signings of veterans Philip Buchannon, Julian Peterson, Anthony Henry, and Grady Jackson indicate the new Lions regime is determined to fix this team – one side of the ball at a time. Curry is a safe pick in a field of question marks, and Detroit can’t afford to miss.
Analysis : The Rams’ roster is littered with holes, and no hole is bigger than the one left by the departure of Orlando Pace. The Rams have their pick of top tackles, and they elect to go with the more polished Monroe. Coach Spagnuolo understands the value of athletic offensive linemen from his time in New York, so the Rams select the tight end convert with the number 2 overall selection.
Analysis : The acquisition of Matt Cassel virtually demands the Chiefs fortify their offensive line, and they do so with one of the best tackles in the nation. Smith, a tackle better known for his pass protection skills, is a perfect fit to the presumed aerial offense to be installed in Kansas City. Defense is an area of concern, but the Pioli drafts for value here and lands a franchise tackle.
Analysis : After the Michael Vick debacle in Atlanta, Jim Mora’s regime in Seattle selects their prototype pocket passer as the new face of the Seahawks’ franchise. The 34-year old incumbent Matt Hasselbeck has strong ties to former head coach Mike Holmgreen. Last year’s season-ending surgery coupled with Holmgreen’s departure prove too much for Hasselbeck, as 2009 marks his final year in Seattle.
Analysis : Jenkins' stock has soared through the roof after he eliminated doubts about his straight line speed at Ohio State's pro day. The unquestioned leader of the Buckeye defense, Jenkins not only brings tremendous character, professionalism, and confidence to the position, but unmatched physical attributes, body control, and leaping ability. The Browns have lacked a ball-hawking defender since their return in 1999, and they find their man in Jenkins.
Analysis : Cincinnati needs an impact player on the defensive front, and no interior defensive lineman delivers like Raji. A great reason the Bengals finished the 2008 campaign with a 4-11-1 record was their inability to stop the run. Raji instantly upgrades their 21st ranked rush defense while providing a pass rusher to pair along side Robert Geathers and John Thorton.
Analysis : The Raiders look to take the next step in turning their organization around and select a receiver some call the most explosive player in the entire draft. Al Davis’ love of athleticism pays off in a big way with the selection of Crabtree. While injury concerns linger around the Texas Tech standout, Oakland rolls the dice here and gives JaMarcus Russell a big time player with tremendous upside.
Analysis : The loss of Matt Jones and the remarkably average career of Reggie Williams make finding a legitimate receiving threat top priority in Jacksonville. Jeremy Maclin is the closest thing to a can't miss prospect at the position, so the Jaguars happily select him here. Maclin's toughness, speed, and work ethic provide a breath of fresh air to a position in so much disarray.
Analysis : One of the most under-looked elements of Green Bay’s success during the Brett Favre era was a consistently dominant offensive line. Names like Mike Whale and Mike Flanagan have since departed – leaving the Packers void of talent up front. Ted Thompson’s crew selects Smith and gives Aaron Rogers a fighting chance to emulate the accomplishments of his predecessor.
Analysis : With former first round selection Vernon Davis coming into his third year and new free ageny acquisition Brandon Jones providing a speedy compliment on the outside, the 49ers can afford to tweak what little concerns they have on defense. Mike Singletary and Scott McCloughan select Brian Orakpo to play opposite of Justin Smith on the defensive line. Orakpo has the size to stand up and play the Sam or bulk up and play 3 technique. Either way, San Francisco comes out on top.
Analysis : The Bills waste little time in selecting Cushing in a move that instantly improves their suspect linebacker corps. Brian Cushing is a pure linebacker with the experience and pedigree to fill in as the face of an overall pedestrian defense. Blessed with physicality to go along with above average coverage skills, Cushing gives the Bills a playmaker that will anchor their defense for years to come.
Analysis : After years of unsuccessful attempts to patch up the defensive line, McDaniels and the Broncos get it right and draft the Jackson - the best defensive lineman available. While Tyson Jackson isn't known for his pass rushing moves, he is stout enout at the point to stop the run - something the 29th ranked defensive unit would welcome with open arms.
Analysis : Michael Oher is a great fit here for two reasons: first, the Redskins have one of, if not the oldest offensive lines in football. Chris Samuels missed some time in 2008 and he's heading into his 11th year in the league. For a team who predicates themselves on the power running game, a replacement tackle is necessary. Oher is still raw coming out of Ole Miss, but Joe Bugel is one of the best in the business and should have no problem helping Oher reach his potential.
Analysis : The Saints have few selections in this year's draft, so they will certainly look to make an impact with their lone day one selection. For where they are selecting, no player can provide the Saints with a bigger impact than the player some hail as the best pass rusher in the draft. Do to his size and pash rushing abilities, Everette Brown projects well as a linebacker in Sean Payton's 4-3 defense.
Analysis : With the recent strides the Texans have made on defense, they select the final piece of the puzzle in the hard-hitting linebacker from USC. Maualuga’s tough, intelligent brand of football compliments rising star DeMeco Ryans – leaving the Texans with a 1-2 punch capable of shaking up the long-standing hierarchy of the AFC South.
Analysis : The Chargers select the best player available in preparation for the eventual release of LaDainian Tomlinson. The physically demanding nature of playing running back in the NFL requires that teams carry two capable runners on their roster. Moreno provides the Chargers with a 3rd down back for the present and an eventual replacement of the future.
Analysis : As is the case with many new NFL regimes, handpicking their signal caller is of the utmost priority. Rex Ryan selects the physically gifted Josh Freeman as their version of “Joe Flacco” in an attempt to solidify the hotly contested quarterback position. Freeman gets the nod over Sanchez for three reasons: experience, upside, and leadership. Rex Ryan gets his quarterback of the future.
Analysis : Percy Harvin's game-changing speed and ability are just what the Chicago Bears are looking for. Devin Hester's production as a return man has declined with his incorporation in the offense, and there is chatter around Halas that Hester would be best served as a return specialist. Harvin's potential will help Kyle Orton take the next step in becoming great while providing Chicago with an exciting playmaker in the process.
Analysis : New Buccaneers’ defensive coordinator Jim Bates runs a defensive system predicated on smart, physical play from all four defensive linemen. The conversion from the “Tampa 2” won’t be particularly easy, but the Bucs nab their centerpiece in the disruptive tackle from Mississippi. Jerry’s prowess as an interior pass rusher along with his run stopping ability will help Tampa improve on a unit that gave up nearly 120 yards per game.
Analysis : Detroit relishes in their good fortune as their franchise quarterback falls down into their arms. Coming off the worst season in modern professional football history, the Lions desperately need a new face for the organization. Drafting Sanchez re-energizes their fan base as well as endows the team with a quarterback to develop as a long-term answer.
Analysis : Donavan McNabb has quietly asked the Eagles to acquire a dynamic receiving threat, and they answer his call by selecting the premier tight end in the nation. Pettigrew may be the most complete player heading into the draft – regardless of position. His prowess as a blocker is only surpassed by the natural hands he shows for making the reception. The Eagles replace the oft-injured L.J. Smith and pick up a solid playmaker in the process.
Analysis : You don't run on Minnesota. Period. Teams have taken to the air against the Vikings, and have done so with relative success. Due to this and the aging of cornerback Antoine Winfield (31) and the release of safety Darren Sharper, the Vikings select the best DB on the board in Darrius Butler. Butler will provide Minnesota with an instant upgrade to their 24th rated pass defense while giving them a starter for years to come.
Analysis : The Patriots select the blue-chip prospect James Laurinaitis in an effort to replace some of the veteran linebackers who have proven themselves serviceable in the past. Laurinaitis has everything Bill Belichick looks for in a linebacker – great size, instincts, technique, and intelligence. The sure tackling linebacker from Ohio State falls to the Patriots in a match made in football heaven.
Analysis : The Falcons have proven themselves among the NFL’s elite in a short time. With few dramatic needs on either side of the ball, Atlanta selects the best player on the board. Aaron Maybin has been frequently described as a developmental prospect – one few teams have the luxury of waiting on. The Falcons, however, do have that luxury and select Maybin to groom into a defensive end or an outside linebacker.
Analysis : The Miami Dolphins desperately need an explosive receiving threat, and they find one in Heyward-Bay. Darrius possesses great size and tremendous speed – two things Dolphin receivers are currently lacking. Heyward-Bay isn’t extremely physical, but if included in an offensive scheme featuring known speed threat Ted Ginn, he certainly won’t need to be.
Analysis : The well-oiled machine known as the Baltimore Ravens continues operation as they select Matthews to replace the departed Bart Scott. Matthews’ journey to the NFL has allowed him to play with a chip on his shoulder throughout his college career. The Ravens love that. The tenacity, emotion, and tremendous upside to Matthews make this a steal for Baltimore – who happily select him here.
Analysis : Indianapolis has two fine wideouts in Reggie Wayne and Anthony Gonzalez, however the 3-base receiver sets indicate the Colts can still do with additional help. After releasing Marvin Harrison, look for Bill Polian to further supplement his receiving corps with the talented Nicks. Much like the player he is replacing, Nicks is a quiet leader who lets his supreme talent speak for itself. The Colts find their slot receiver and the eventual replacement for the 30-year old Reggie Wayne.
Analysis : The Eagles lost Tra Thomas and Stacey Andrews to free agency, so it only makes sense for the Eagles to draft a suitable replacement for their veteran tackles. Tom Heckert and Andy Reid are two of the best in the business when it comes to replacing talent. With the 28th overall selection, Philadelphia continues its strong draft and nabs one of the most underrated tackles in this year’s class.
Analysis : The Giants are one of the few teams with few immediate needs, so they can afford somewhat of a luxury pick here. With Brandon Jacobs’ injury concerns, Derrick Ward’s signing with the Buccaneers, and New York’s commitment to running the football, a secondary running back jumps to the forefront of concerns for Big Blue. The Giants replace “Wind” with “Thunder” as they pick up the next best runner available.
Analysis : When you look at the moves Tennessee has made this offseason, you have to start with the loss of Albert Hanesworth. What made the Titans so good was their ability to generate pressure with their front 4 and play excellent coverage on the back end. No Hanesworth means less pressure which creates addition pressure on their secondary. The Titans select Vontae Davis to alleviate some of that pressure now and start in place of Nick Harper (34) later.
31. Michael Johnson, DE/OLB Georgia Tech
Analysis : Arizona defied all odds and shocked the football world last year on their way to a rare Super Bowl appearance. After losing Antonio Smith to free agency this off season, the Cardinals look to bolster their defensive line. With the second to last pick in the first round, Arizona accomplishes just that by selecting the highly intriguing Georgia Tech prospect – Michael Johnson.
Analysis : The Steelers select Max Unger.
So there it is. Questions? Comments? Thoughts? Feedback is appreciated.