Scheme, scheme, scheme.
When re-building a franchise, one cannot underestimate how important it is to draft to fit the organizational philosophy. Teams like the Patriots and Colts are so good at this year in and year out. With 12 rookie head coaches poised to make an impact, they will undoubtedly look to find players who fit in well within the confines of their scheme.
With that in mind, I present the updated version of my mock draft.
Analysis : The more I read about Curry, the more confident I feel about this selection for Detroit. The truth of the matter is this: Matthew Stafford is not your prototypical franchise quarterback. Detroit could use a new face of the franchise, however they could use something else more – wins. Aaron Curry is good enough to step in and start for the Lions - who should be vastly improved on the defensive side of the ball.
Analysis : Saint Louis has their choice of offensive tackles with the second overall selection, so either Monroe or Jason Smith could be the pick here. I like Monroe better. Not only is Monroe a more polished blocker on the field than Jason Smith, he has good character, work ethic, and tremendous football instincts. The term mauler can only be used with few linemen nowadays, and Monroe certainly fits the billing. Eugene Monroe is the right choice here.
Analysis : General Manager Scott Pioli understands the importance of drafting to fill a system. It is no secret Todd Haley favors an aerial-based offense, so the Chiefs complement this by landing the most explosive collegiate wide receiver in the nation. The combination of Michael Crabtree, Dewayne Bowe, and Tony Gonzalez should provide Matt Cassel a chance to duplicate the success he enjoyed last year with New England.
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 : Without Stacey Andrews at tackle, Cincinnati has an immediate need along the offensive line. For the Bengals to make any noise in the AFC North, they will have to contend with both Baltimore and Pittsburgh twice each season. Jason Smith will help them do just that. With proper coaching and experience in the pros, Smith will be able to contend with the fiercest of edge rushers. His intelligence in reading and adjusting to blitzes will prove an invaluable resource for the Bengals.
Analysis : The Oakland Raiders have their franchise passer in JaMarcus Russell. For Russell to succeed, the Raiders must play to his strengths and minimize his weaknesses. Oakland needs to find a wide receiver capable of stretching the field and breaking the long touchdown run, and no player may be better at that then Missouri's Jeremy Maclin. Maclin's shifty nature and acceleration compare favorably to Carolina's Steve Smith - a lofty comparison he may actually live up to. The only question remains whether Davis will stop drooling over Jeremy's 4.3 speed to hand in the selection card.
Analysis : Jacksonville would have loved to find Jeremy Maclin or Michael Crabtree at this spot, but they don't so they go with the next best receiver available in Percy Harvin. With speed, elusiveness, and game-changing ability, Harvin could easily end up being the steal of the draft. The knock on him is health, but teams will overlook that. A healthy Harvin has more than enough value to the Jags at 8, and they roll the dice with the Florida superstar.
Analysis : B.J. Raji is a force. For a team like the Packers attempting to convert to a base 3-4 defense, finding the nation's premier nose tackle prospect here is a blessing which they happily receive. Character, intelligence, and academic issues have hurt Raji's stock, but his supreme talent on the field ensures he falls no further than 9. Still a bit raw coming out of Boston College, B.J. Raji has the build, strength, and athletic ability to shine in a 3-4 defensive set.
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 stand up and fill the lone outside linebacker spot in the 3-4 defense. Under Mike Singletary, Brian Orakpo can blossom into a playmaking edge rusher and thrive in their system.
Analysis : Buffalo has a chance at landing one of the premier pass rushers in the draft, and they do just that by selecting Everette Brown. The talented pass rusher from Florida State will be employed in the Bills' 4-3 scheme, where he will be asked to do play defensive end - his specialty in college. Buffalo hasn't had a signature pass rusher since Bruce Smith. Everette Brown will change that.
Analysis : There is no reason for the Broncos to get cute here. If Mark Sanchez is here at 12, I fully expect Denver to select him with their first round selection. For Josh McDaniels and the Broncos to succeed in a system predicated on smart quarterback play, they will need to find a franchise passer with the poise, intelligence and accuracy demanded out of quarterbacks. Sanchez ran the same system Matt Cassel studied under at USC. McDaniels hand picks his franchise quarterback.
Analysis : With one of the oldest offensive lines in football and Chris Samuels on the cusp of retirement, it would be wise for the Redskins to plan ahead and draft an offensive linemen. On film, there may not be anyone than Andre Smith. Smith's dominance as a run blocker figures well into Washington's ground-based offense. Smith will not start immediately - a blessing in disguise for both parties. Veterans like Samuels, Dockery, and Thomas will help Smith mature into a professional.
Analysis : The 2008 Saints were one of the best offensive teams in football. Defensively, however, was an entirely different story. With their lone first round selection, the Saints look to add a playmaker on defense, and that playmaker is USC standout Brian Cushing. Blessed with the speed to drop back in coverage and the strength to make sledgehammer-type hits, Cushing is the ideal 4-3 outside linebacker. He should start immediately for New Orleans and make an immediate impact from day one.
Analysis : DeMeco Ryans has developed into an excellent player. For him and the Texans to continue progressing, Rick Smith selects Clay Matthews Jr. with the 15th pick in the NFL Draft. Matthews is a rangy linebacker who may take some time to adjust to the NFL game. Like his USC counterpart Brian Cushing, Clay Matthews does have a bit of injury history which may concern a few teams. His upside is too great for the Texans to pass up here, as Houston fills an immediate need in their front 7.
Analysis : Veteran defensive end Igor Olshansky was not retained during the offseason. For San Diego to be successful in their 3-4 defense, they need to fill that hole and they do so with Tyson Jackson. Jackson's ideal bulk and decline as a pass rusher have limited his projections to a 3-4 defensive end, and fortunately for the Chargers, that's just what they need.
Analysis : Many teams talk about selecting the best player available, but few have the determination to do so when the time comes. If the Jets are on the clock and Rey Maualuga is still available, New York will waste little time in selecting the hard-hitting linebacker from Southern California. Maualuga fits the mold of inside linebacker in Rex Ryan's defense, so this pick is virtually a lock if the stars align themselves accordingly.
Analysis : Denver will need a defensive centerpiece with which to rebuild that unit, and Laurinaitis fits the bill. The Broncos' defense has been their achillies heel for the past few seasons, so it is imparitive they find some help sooner rather than later. The co-captain from Ohio State will thrive as a middle linebacker in a 3-4 defense due to his outstanding instincts and feel for the game.
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 needs a franchise quarterback in the worst way, so they opt to go with Josh Freeman from Kansas State. Freeman will need to sit on the bench for a few years to make the adjustment into the NFL. Daunte Culpepper will start in 2009 while mentoring the young Freeman along the way. The Lions should be much improved on the defensive side of the ball, so they will be competitive sooner rather than later. Once Freeman matures into the starting role, this team can finally start looking towards the playoffs.
Analysis : Philadelphia is known for their shrewd approach toward the NFL Draft. With their first of two first round selections, they fill the immediate hole at tackle with Michael Oher. Tra Thomas has been an integral part of the Philadelphia Eagles' offensive success for so long. It is imparitive the Eagles address this loss through the draft for the future success of the organization.
Analysis : Judging from how aggressively Vikings management pursued wide receiver T.J Houshmanzadeh, Minnesota is seriously looking to upgrade their receiving corps. Darrius Heward-Bey is a playmaking wideout with the potential to be great. Heward's speed will force defenses to commit more defenders to the secondary, which should free up things for Adrian Peterson in the backfield.
Analysis : The Patriots would be thrilled to find Vontae Davis here. Blessed with outstanding speed, agility, and instincts for the game, Vontae Davis is regarded by some as a better defensive back than Ohio State's Malcolm Jenkins. Regardless of his ranking, one thing is true - Davis is a football player. You can't teach athletic ability, and Vontae Davis is brimming with it. New England finds a cornerback to be what Asante Samuel was for them so many years ago.
Analysis : Atlanta’s offense seems to be in good hands with Matt Ryan at the helm. The defense lost an important piece with the departure of veteran linebacker Keith Brooking, so a replacement pick here seems likely. Larry English should thrive in Atlanta’s 4-3 defensive scheme. English is a high motor type player who brings it every down. This will be a great pickup for the Falcons.
Analysis : Bill Parcells understands the importance of winning the battle at the line of scrimmage. Because of this, the Dolphins used first day selections on Philip Merling and Kendall Langford. Jason Ferguson only has so much left in the tank, so Miami selects Evander Hood in preparation for Ferguson’s departure. Hood is a big, strong tackle with college experience and intelligence. He should be a great pro, and a great fit for Miami at 25.
Analysis : The Baltimore Ravens could stand to upgrade their defensive backfield. Chris McCallister is aging and could not get the job done, so Ozzie Newsome undoubtedly looks to the draft to find someone who can. Darrius Butler is the best cornerback available, so Newsome and company should have no qualms about selecting him. Butler has the physical skill set to be great, but how he transitions to the NFL from a program like Connecticut is something worth keeping an eye on.
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 : With the offensive line addressed and Brian Westbrook to turn 30 during the season, Philadelphia does what they do best and that's plan ahead. Chris Wells gives the Eagles tremendous value at this selection as he is one of the mroe talented runners to emerge into the NFL in recent history. Wells needs to work on his hands as he is not a natural receiver, but the Eagles can work around that. When healthy, Chris Wells is a transcendent talent who is capable of becoming a franchise tailback in this league.
Analysis : Eli Manning will miss recently departed receiver Plaxico Burress more than many realize. Rutgers' all-time leading receiver has been the apple of the Giants' eye for quite some time now, so he will be the selection here. Britt's size (6'3 218lbs) and hands should allow him to take over for Burress. While Kenny Britt doesn't have game-changing speed, he is a big-bodied pass catcher who will act as possession receiver in the Giants' offense.
30. Michael Johnson, DE/OLB Georgia Tech
Analysis : When a team is selecting this low in the draft, it usually means there are few pressing needs on either side of the ball. This is true for the Tennessee Titans, who finished the regular season with the best record in the NFL. The Titans can afford to roll the dice by selecting the intriguing Michael Johnson from Georgia Tech. Johnson will have time to learn the system, which will benefit both him and the Titans in the long run.
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 project pass rusher, Aaron Maybin.
Analysis : The Steelers select Alex Mack to help fortify the interior of their offensive line. The intelligent Mack has been a model of consistency throughout his collegiate career, so it should come as no surprise Pittsburgh would be interested in him. Mack is versatile enough to play either of the guard positions – something Mike Tomlin and the Steelers would love.