1. Detroit Lions - Matthew Stafford, QB, Georgia ~
The debate is raging on what philosophy the Lions should use in this position. The Lions have a number of options at this spot: take a franchise QB, choose from its pick of the strong offensive tackle class, or take the best player defensive player available. Remember: the Lions have only used one first-round pick on a defensive player since 1999.
The Lions have two picks in the first round of the 2009 Draft thanks to the Roy Williams trade, and there will be quality defensive players from whom they can choose later on in round one. Factor into that the team's pick at the top of round two, and there will be other chances for the Lions to rebuild its horrible defense.
2. St. Louis Rams - Jason Smith, OT, Baylor
This is a deep draft at offensive tackle, and the Rams could be in position to have their pick of the litter. Mel Kiper was ahead of the curve in predicting Jason Smith as a high pick, and he very well could end up going to the Rams at this spot. Smith bench-pressed 225 pounds 33 times at the combine, and he may have separated himself from the rest of the very strong offensive tackle pack with that performance.
With future hall of fame offensive tackle Orlando Pace is no longer a member of the Rams team, and his cut seems to point strongly to St. Louis going with an offensive tackle at this position.
3. Kansas City Chiefs - Aaron Curry, OLB, Wake Forest
Curry has managed to work his way to the top of most defensive prospect lists, and it would be no surprise for him to be a top five pick in the draft. He played his way into this spot with an outstanding 2008 senior season. At 6'2" 245 pounds, Curry runs a 4.56 40 and has an incredible knack for finding the ball. Seeing Curry in a 3-4 defense would be interesting, but he is such a strong prospect that he would project highly in any defensive scheme. Kansas City needs a blue chip offensive tackle, but a player at talented as Curry might prove to be too much for the Chiefs to pass up on at this spot.
4. Seattle Seahawks - Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech ~
Michael Crabtree is considered by most experts to be the top wide receiver prospect in the draft -- and he left school as just a redshirt sophomore. Certainly his performance on national TV in hauling in the game-winning TD catch for the Red Raiders in their win over Texas brought him plenty of attention, but Crabtree is an overall solid player who is quite possibly the best sophomore-eligible NFL wide receiver prospect to come along since Larry Fitzgerald in 2004. Some consider Crabtree to be the best overall prospect in the draft, and he would be an ideal fit in Seattle.
Crabtree requires surgery on the stress fracture in his left foot, and after indicating initially that he would wait for his pro day to run, he has now decided to have surgery now and not run the 40.
5. Cleveland Browns - Brian Orakpo, DE, Texas
The Browns need to get a talented pass rusher, and while Aaron Curry would be great, if they can't get him then a player like Orakpo should receive strong consideration. Orakpo has great size at 6'3" 265, and he showed his strength at the combine by bench pressing 225 pounds an impressive 31 times.
Orakpo is talented enough where he could play either DE or OLB in a 3-4. That flexibility could make him even more tempting for a team like Cleveland which needs to improve and help Shaun Rogers.
6. Cincinnati Bengals - Eugene Monroe, OT, Virginia
Cincinnati desperately needs an offensive line boost. Consider this: in 2008, the Bengals were #30 in passing offense and #29 in rushing offense. To be fair, the injury of QB Carson Palmer contributed to this, but so did the departure of offensive tackle Willie Anderson to Baltimore in the last off-season. And, with the Bengals losing OT Stacy Andrews to free agency, adding an elite offensive tackle would seem to be a top priority for the Bengals.
7. Oakland Raiders - Jeremy Maclin, WR, Missouri ~
While still very raw as a wide receiver, Maclin brings a big play kick return ability that would allow him to immediately impact special teams in a positive way. The Raiders could use youthful talent at wide receiver, and with Maclin's lightning speed he would seem like an appealing choice for Raiders owner Al Davis. His superb kick return skills give Maclin an extra edge over the rest of the wide receiver prospects.
And why not, the Raider already have 20 RB, why not add more more depth on a bad team.
8. Jacksonville Jaguars - Andre Smith, OT, Alabama
I still think Andre Smith is the best long-term offensive tackle prospect in the bunch. However, there are major questions about his work ethic. Add to that the bizarre scene at the NFL combine in Indianapolis surrounding Smith, coupled with what some believe was a sub-par pro day for him at Alabama, and there are doubters out there who think Smith is going to fall down the draft board.
9. Green Bay Packers - Malcolm Jenkins, CB, Ohio State
Consider this: Charles Woodson is 32 and Al Harris (who suffered a ruptured spleen earlier this year) is 34. The Packers need youth at corner in a major way. Jenkins might have been a top 15 pick had he come out last year, but with another year of seasoning on the college level he looks like the clear top cornerback prospect, and a likely top ten selection. There are some who think Jenkins might end up as a safety in the NFL, but he would provide an instant upgrade to Green Bay's secondary either way.
10. San Francisco 49ers - Mark Sanchez, QB, USC ~
Alex Smith hasn't been the answer for the 49ers, and Sanchez has emerged as the second-ranked QB prospect besides Matthew Stafford. For the 49ers to return to greatness, they will likely need to find a top-flight signal caller to lead the offense. And, unless they somehow manage to sign QB Kurt Warner (who is likely simply using the 49ers for leverage in negotiations with Arizona), taking Sanchez at this spot makes a great deal of sense.
11. Buffalo Bills - B.J. Raji, DT, Boston College
Peria Jerry is tempting as a pass rushing threat from the DT position, but Raji, at 6'1" 325, has the bulk to fill the middle arguably better than Perry would. Moreover, Raji had an outstanding Senior Bowl week, to the point where he might end up as a top ten selection. There are some who see Raji as a top five talent, so this might constitute a bit of a bargain for Buffalo.
12. Denver Broncos - Rey Maualuga, ILB, USC
With the Broncos moving to a 3-4 defense, a huge playmaker like Maualuga would be a great addition to the lineup. He is a great leader and, while there would be a transition necessary in moving to a 3-4, Maualuga is good enough to where he could be a great impact player for Denver. There is a need for a nose tackle that would be diffiuclt to fill at this spot (particularly if B.J. Raji is off the board) but overall a player like Maualuga would make Denver's defense better right away.
13. Washington Redskins - Michael Oher, OT, Ole Miss
Oher is an outstanding pass blocker, and despite a difficult past he turned into one of the nation's best college offensive linemen. Oher didn't have a great combine, but he is a freakishly talented player who, with the right coaching, could turn into an All-Pro.
14. New Orleans Saints - Brian Cushing, OLB, USC
The Saints held true to what was expected and signed free agent MLB Jonathan Vilma to a new contract. Vilma, who excels as a 4-3 MLB, had a tremendous 2008 season for New Orleans.
Without a second or third round pick in 2009, the Saints need to make a strong pick here, and Cushing would be a great addition to the team. He has great size, speed, and has shown poise and skill in big games.
The Saints could use a high-end center, and this draft has a couple of them -- but taking one at this spot would be a major stretch. Trading down might be a good idea if that is the objective of the Saints, as they could potentially obtain a second or third round selection as a result.
15. Houston Texans - Everette Brown, DE, Florida State ~
Brown had 13.5 sacks this past season for the Seminoles, and he would be an interesting addition to the Raiders. At 6'4" 250, Brown has great size, and his 4.65 speed presents a great combination for him coming off of the end position.
The Texans have a great defensive end with Mario Williams, but they could use a player like Brown to bring pressure from the left defensive end position. It's possible that the Texans could draft Brown with the idea of converting him into an OLB, but a player like Penn State OLB/DE Aaron Maybin would likely be a better choice for such a move.
16. San Diego Chargers - Tyson Jackson, DE, LSU
Jackson might have been a first round pick had he come out for last year's draft. In 2008 he fell off the radar to a degree due to LSU having a down year, but he has worked his way back into contention at the defensive end position.
At 6'4" 295, Jackson has the size to play DE effectively in a 3-4. And, with the Chargers not having a second round pick in the 2009 Draft, adding a player to the defensive front seven with this pick likely makes the most sense.
17. New York Jets - Knowshon Moreno, RB, Georgia ~
In some ways I question the idea of the Jets not trying to stretch one more year out of the combo of Thomas Jones and Leon Washington, but the chance to land Moreno might be too enticing to pass up. The Jets might be tempted to trade up to get Moreno if they fear that San Diego might take him at #16, but of course that hinges on how the new braintrust with the Jets evaluates the relative skills of Wells and Moreno.
18. Chicago Bears - D.J. Moore, CB, Vanderbilt ~
An important part of the defense that lead Vanderbilt to its first bowl game since 1982, Moore is heading to the NFL -- where he could be a great pickup by Chicago. Moore has already shown that he can handle man-to-man matchups with some elite WR talent, which should make him an appealing pick.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Peria Jerry, DT, Ole Miss
The Bucs were in the running for free agent DT Albert Haynesworth up until the end, but the Redskins landed him. It was Haynesworth or bust for teams wanting an elite defensive tackle, so the Bucs must look elsewhere to fill that spot.
Jerry has had a strong season at Ole Miss, and he has moved into strong first round projection territory with his performance and with this being such a weak draft at defensive tackle. The Bucs once had a defensive tackle with great pass-rushing skills with Warren Sapp, and while it's not fair to hold Jerry to Sapp's standards (at least on the field), Jerry could be a strong pickup for a Bucs defense that folded down the stretch in 2008. There are a wide variety of options for the Buccaneers at this spot, but picking Jerry here makes a great deal of sense.
20. Detroit Lions (from Cowboys) - James Laurinaitis, ILB, Ohio State
If the Lions take a QB with their own first round pick (the #1 overall selection), they most likely would go defense with this selection. There is plenty of work to be done in Detroit on a defense that was mostly neglected (at least as far as first round pick use went) under former GM Matt Millen, and Laurinaitis could have an instant impact on the team.
21. Philadelphia Eagles - Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Oklahoma State
One year ago the Eagles used their franchise tag to retain tight end L.J. Smith. It seems unlikely that the team would do that again, and short of Smith signing a long-term deal with Philly, the Eagles could be in the market for a tight end.
At this point Pettigrew looks like the best of the bunch with Oklahoma TE Jermaine Gresham going back to school for 2009. At 6'6" 260 Pettigrew has great size and appears to have the ability to block on an NFL quality level. He is also a receiving threat, and adding him to the mix in Philly would be quite intriguing.
22. Minnesota Vikings - Alex Mack, C, California
Part of a strong crop of players at center, Mack is a skilled player who is talented at snapping (be it shotgun or traditional) and blocking. With Matt Birk an unrestricted free agent and apparently not coming back to Minnesota, Mack could be a strong addition to the Vikings lineup who might be called upon to play right away.
23. New England Patriots - Clint Sintim, LB, Virginia
Sintim played OLB at Virginia, but he is projected by some to move to ILB in the NFL, particularly in a 3-4 scheme. Teaming Sintim with Jared Mayo at the ILB spot could give the Patriots a great one-two punch in the middle.
24. Atlanta Falcons - Aaron Maybin, DE/OLB, Penn State ~
The Falcons have cut OLB Keith Brooking (who turns 34 this year). Maybin is in some ways a raw talent, but with good speed and great athleticism, Maybin could be a good fit for the Falcons defensive front seven. Moreover, Maybin could also provide depth at the defensive end position, which would be a win-win for Atlanta.
25. Miami Dolphins - Percy Harvin, WR, Florida ~
The Dolphins could use a solid OLB, but instead of stretching to take one here the Dolphins could land an amazing talent in Harvin. Harvin has great speed, to be sure, but what makes him really stand out is his uncanny knack for not only running great routes but also in getting open. While I could see the Dolphins trading down here in Bill Parcells expert draft style, if Miami has the chance to draft Harvin here that could be a great move for a team that already has an emerging star with Ted Ginn, Jr.
26. Baltimore Ravens - Vontae Davis, CB, Illinois ~
The Ravens cut longtime CB Chris McAlister earlier this off-season, and a logical progression for the Ravens would be to bring in a young player like Davis who, in time, could develop into a great pro cornerback. At 6'0" 205 Davis has average height for the position, but it's his speed and knack for breaking up passing plays that makes him look so good as a pro prospect.
27. Indianapolis Colts - Sen'Derrick Marks, DT, Auburn ~
The Colts rely on defensive pressure from its front four to pressure the quarterback with its Cover 2 defense. Moreover, the team looks to the interior defensive line to stop the run, which has been a hit-or-miss proposition in recent years.
At 6'1" (or 6'2" depending on who you believe) and 295 pounds, Marks would be able to help turn around the interior defensive line problems of the team. The DT position has been hit hard in the past two seasons, with the career-ending knee injury in August 2007 suffered by Anthony McFarland (who the Colts acquired for a second-round pick in 2006) and then the release of starting DT Ed Johnson early in the 2008 season after Johnson was arrested for possession of marijuana.
28. Philadelphia Eagles (from Panthers) - Eben Britton, OT, Arizona
Both starting offensive tackles for the Eagles, Jon Runyan and Tra Thomas, are slated to be unrestricted free agents, and it's a distinct possibility that one (if not both) will be leaving the team. However, the Eagles in this scenario would have missed out on the first wave of offensive tackles by the time pick #21 came up, so it makes sense for the Eagles to snag Brandon Pettigrew at #21 and then go for Britton at this spot.
29. New York Giants - Clay Matthews, OLB, USC
Overlooked by some because of his strong teammates Rey Maualuga and Brian Cushing, Matthews is a talented outside linebacker who would be a good addition to the Giants. Landing an offensive tackle here would be nice, but if Eben Britton goes one pick before, Matthews would probably make the most sense in this spot.
30. Tennessee Titans - Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Maryland ~
Heyward-Bey has an unusual combination of size (6'2" 205) and world-class speed (he ran a 4.30 40 at the combine), so much so that on one play early in the 2008 season he literally *outran* double-coverage en route to an open touchdown reception. Moreover, with Chris Carr leaving via free agency, Heyward-Bey would be an intriguing addition at the kick return spot.
31. Arizona Cardinals - Chris "Beanie" Wells, RB, Ohio State ~
The Cardinals have a rather strong need for a franchise running back. Edgerrin James turns 31 in August, and for a third straight season he finished with a sub 4.0 yards per carry rushing average in 2008. He's also due a $5 million base salary in 2009. Tim Hightower had an even worse average than James, with an anemic 2.8 yards per carry in the 2008 regular season. J.J. Arrington left via free agency, and overall a player like Wells would be a wonderful fit for Arizona.
32. Pittsburgh Steelers - Max Unger, C/OG, Oregon
Unger played center at Oregon, but he could potentially play both center and guard for the Steelers. Pittsburgh retained OG Chris Kemoeatu with a five-year contract, but Unger could still be a valuable addition to a Steelers team that needs some fresh blood on its offensive line.