This is the one. I think that this will be the picks that will happen next weekend. Oh how things change so quickly. Got to love football.
1. Miami Dolphins: Chris Long, DE, Virginia
In 19 years as a head coach, Bill Parcells has drafted a quarterback in either round one or round two once. One time. Of course, that was the first overall pick (Drew Bledsoe, 1993), and rumors suggest the Dolphins really like Matt Ryan. History states Parcells is more likely to spend the first day drafting defensive linemen, offensive linemen, or outside linebackers. We're sticking with history, for now.
2. St. Louis Rams: Jake Long, OT, Michigan
The Rams spent three selections on defensive tackles last year and a third-round pick on the position in 2006. They still need help there, but they could also use a bookend to help their offensive line.
3. Atlanta Falcons: Matt Ryan, QB, Boston College
Mike Smith and Tom Dimitroff inherited a mess. The best way to buy at least three years is to tie themselves to a young quarterback. Let's hope Joey Harrington doesn't rub off on the BC kid.
4. Oakland Raiders: Glenn Dorsey, DT, LSU
We're going with the area of biggest need, which is probably not prudent. Considering that Al Davis is in control, the Raiders will likely trade this selection for Chad Johnson or grab Darren McFadden.
5. Kansas City Chiefs: Ryan Clady, OT, Boise State
With Jake Long off the board, the Chiefs are forced to bite the bullet and pick Clady a little early. The Cardinals did the same thing with Levi Brown last year. This selection assumes Clady's pectoral injury isn't serious.
6. New York Jets: Darren McFadden, RB, Arkansas
The Jets should be locked into Vernon Gholston, unless McFadden falls to this point. Just as Chester Taylor didn't keep the Vikings from drafting Adrian Peterson, the presence of Thomas Jones shouldn't hold the Jets back from considering this option.
7. New England Patriots: Vernon Gholston, DE/OLB, Ohio State
The NFL gods feel bad about the Super Bowl defeat and the loss of the 31st overall pick. Thus, the absolute best option falls to the Patriots here.
8. Baltimore Ravens: Mike Jenkins, CB, South Florida
What don't the Ravens need? They could go a lot of directions with this selection. With Ryan, Jake Long, and Clady off the board, we're switching away from the offensive needs and focusing on the top defensive hole. Samari Rolle and Chris McAlister are both over 30, and the former appears to be on the decline. The problem? Rolle and McAlister also make a lot of money, and the Ravens might hesitate to spend another huge chunk on the position.
9. Cincinnati Bengals: Sedrick Ellis, DT, USC
Outside of Domata Peko, the Bengals are long in the tooth at defensive tackle. They're also about to lose Justin Smith to free agency. Thus, defensive line is a major need. Ellis makes sense from a talent standpoint, but his style might not be suited for a 3-4, unless the Bengals believe he can play end. It wouldn't be surprising to see the Bengals opt for a rushing outside linebacker instead.
10. New Orleans Saints: Leodis McKelvin, CB, Troy
The Saints haven't been shy about looking at small school guys, which is why we feel safe picking McKelvin over Kansas corner Aqib Talib. There's currently no consensus about who the top corner will be (Jenkins, McKelvin, Talib), but pretty much everyone agrees the Saints need to address their defensive backfield.
11. Buffalo Bills: Malcolm Kelly, WR, Oklahoma
The Bills scored big with the Pac-10 in 2007 (Marshawn Lynch, Trent Edwards), but it doesn't make sense for them to add the shorter DeSean Jackson to their height-challenged receiving corps. Instead, we're eying the 6-4 Kelly or the 6-4 Limas Sweed for this spot.
12. Denver Broncos: DeSean Jackson, WR, California
The Broncos could be in a tough spot. They have a lot of defensive needs, but the top tier of talent will be off the board. So, unless they fall head-over-heels for someone like linebacker Dan Connor, we're throwing out a wild card pick in Jackson. The Broncos are expected to release Javon Walker, could use a speed guy in the passing attack, and badly want to upgrade their return games. Jackson may be small, but he can motor and is excellent on returns.
13. Carolina Panthers: Jeff Otah, OT, Pittsburgh
The Panthers re-signed Travelle Wharton and placed the franchise tag on Jordan Gross, but they plan on moving Wharton to guard and could lose Gross after the 2008 season. Thus, it still makes sense for them to target an offensive tackle. Their options at this spot range from Otah and fellow offensive tackle Sam Baker to quarterback Brian Brohm to defensive tackle Kentwan Balmer.
14. Chicago Bears: Rashad Mendenhall, RB, Illinois
The offensive line is terrible, the defensive line needs some help, and the receiving group looks miserable. Despite those glaring issues, the Bears could have a tough time passing on Mendenhall. The club finished last in the NFL in yards-per-carry and bust Cedric Benson is rehabbing a broken ankle.
15. Detroit Lions: Aqib Talib, CB, Lions
Can this be a receiver? Please? Limas Sweed? The Lions released Fernando Bryant from their thin secondary this week and solidified cornerback as their biggest need. Given Kevin Jones' injury history, they could also consider running back Jonathan Stewart, and with Shaun Rogers on the block, Balmer makes sense, too.
16. Arizona Cardinals: Jonathan Stewart, RB, Oregon
We've always thought he looked a little small to be an NFL running back, but the Daily Show anchor and Oscars host apparently has some gridiron skills. The Cardinals haven't hidden the fact that they need to find someone to back up or replace the aging Edge James. The only question is if one of the top three backs falls this far.
17. Minnesota Vikings: Phillip Merling, DE, Clemson
Brad Childress may be too stubborn to pull the trigger on Brian Brohm or consider a wide receiver with this pick. Defensive end may be the bigger need, though, since 2004 and 2005 first-round picks Kenechi Udeze and Erasmus James haven't worked out as hoped. Derrick Harvey (Florida) and Calais Campbell (Miami) are two other ends who the Vikings will examine.
18. Houston Texans: Felix Jones, RB, Arkansas
Is Gary Kubiak enough of a Mike Shanahan disciple to ignore a running back with this pick? Mendenhall or Stewart would be ideal, but the speedy Jones is a fine consolation prize. He was forced into a backup role by McFadden, and the Texans would need to complement him with a power back. Still, this is the type of home run hitter their backfield needs.
19. Philadelphia Eagles: Calais Campbell, DE, Miami
For the fifth straight year, many mock drafts will want the Eagles to pick a receiver. It won't happen. Unfortunately, the defensive end and safeties didn't exactly wow scouts at the Combine. The Eagles could release two veteran busts, Jevon Kearse and Darren Howard, and create an opening for Campbell to contribute immediately.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Brian Brohm, QB, Louisville
Brohm may wonder why Aaron Rodgers and Brady Quinn's phone numbers will be provided for him on draft day. The Bucs arguably have bigger needs, but Brohm will put an end to what has been a messy quarterback quagmire under Jon Gruden's watch.
21. Washington Redskins: Sam Baker, OT, USC
Jon Jansen and Chris Samuels have been holding down the ends of the Redskins line since 2000, and it's about time to groom a future replacement. The right side of the Redskins line was a mess due to injuries and a lack of depth in 2007. Yes, the team needs receiver and defensive end help, but maybe they'll actually work with a little long-term vision in this draft.
22. Dallas Cowboys: Dominique Rodger-Cromartie, CB, Tennessee State
It's no secret that receiver, cornerback, offensive tackle, and running back are high on the Cowboys priority list. With the tempting Felix Jones off the board, Jerry Jones may be eying up Sweed, receiver Mario Manningham, or tackle Chris Williams. However, we're going with Rodgers-Cromartie, who rocked the Combine on Tuesday.
23. Pittsburgh Steelers: Chris Williams, OT, Vanderbilt
The Steelers are eying up offensive linemen, and everyone knows it. Guard Alan Faneca will leave via free agency, and tackle Max Starks is currently only held by the transition tag. Williams is the most talented offensive lineman on the board at this point.
24. Tennessee Titans: Limas Sweed, WR, Texas
By placing the franchise tag on Albert Haynesworth, the Titans may have bought a little time for a defensive line that could lose ends Antwan Odom and Travis LaBoy. They will definitely look at those spots with this pick, but if an offensive playmaker like Sweed falls this far, they should thank their lucky stars. Vince Young badly needs weapons.
25. Seattle Seahawks: Kentwan Balmer, DT, Seahawks
We expect the Seahawks to heavily address their offense in this draft, but our mock puts them in a bit of a tough position, as many of the top running backs, receivers, and offensive tackles are gone. The Seahawks defensive line (without Marcus Tubbs) couldn't stop Ryan Grant in the divisional playoff game, and Balmer would immediately add depth to that weak spot.
26. Jacksonville Jaguars: Derrick Harvey, DE, Florida
Think the Jaguars watched the Super Bowl? Defensive end was a top priority before that contest, but after seeing the Giants attack Tom Brady, the Jaguars know they need to apply more pressure if they want to take the next step in the AFC.
27. San Diego Chargers: Pat Sims, DT, Auburn
We haven't seen Sims popping up in the first round too often, but the choice makes sense for the Chargers. Tackle Jamal Williams is nearly 32 and has bad knees, and defensive end Luis Castillo struggles to stay healthy. Sims may be a bit of a project, but the Chargers only need him to provide depth in year one.
28. Dallas Cowboys: Mario Manningham, WR, Michigan
If the Cowboys lose left tackle Flozell Adams to free agency, they'll need to look at offensive tackle with this selection. For the time being, we'll stick with a receiver. Terrell Owens and Terry Glenn are getting long in the tooth, and Manningham or Early Doucet (LSU) could spend a year learning the ropes.
29. San Francisco 49ers: Early Doucet, WR, LSU
Rumors suggest the 49ers will address the defensive side of the ball via free agency, and we have to believe new offensive coordinator Mike Martz is begging for wide receiver help. Doucet skipped the Combine as he recovers from a hamstring injury, and the 49ers could also look at James Hardy or Devin Thomas, both of whom are bigger bodies but also ran in the 4.4 range.
30. Green Bay Packers: Kenny Phillips, S, Miami
The Packers could use an infusion of youth at corner, help at safety, and someone to compete with Brady Poppinga at outside linebacker. Thus, there are a number of good options left, ranging from Phillips to Reggie Smith to Dan Connor to Keith Rivers.
31. New England Patriots: Given Up for cheating.
32. New York Giants: Keith Rivers, OLB, USC
With Kawika Mitchell headed to free agency and Mathias Kiwanuka coming off injury (not to mention playing out of position), the Giants would love to see Rivers or Dan Connor fall into their laps. In such a scenario, Tom Coughlin may actually be convinced to not pick a Boston College player (offensive tackle Gosder Cherlius).