Chef Diesel welcomes our NFL draft expert Mike Schaedler to present this in-depth look at his first round projections.
This may sound silly, but the NFL Draft might be my favorite sporting event of the year. While there is no actual sport involved, the unpredictability, excitement, and optimism of the event are what make it so appealing to me. No matter how poorly a team finished the previous year, it can all change on one draft day.
The 2010 draft in particular should prove to be a historic one. With a new NFL CBA looming, it’s likely that this will be the last time high draft picks will sign huge contracts that they have yet to earn. For this reason, a lot of talented underclassmen have decided to turn pro early, and we’re left with the deepest draft in recent memory.
It’s impossible to predict how 32 organizations are going to think, act, and react on draft day. That’s why mock drafts are seldom accurate when it’s all said and done. However, I would argue that the point of a mock draft is not necessarily to predict what players a team will pick, but rather to highlight each team’s needs and how these positions could be improved via the draft, with an example of such a player given (e.g., Detroit Lions: DT, Ndamukong Suh or Gerald McCoy. Which one? Who knows, doesn’t matter). Last year, I did a first round mock draft and got only five of the 32 selections correct (thank you, Al Davis). Regardless, I’ve decided to give it another shot. The Draft starts April 22nd so I may update it a few days before then. Here goes:
1. St. Louis Rams – QB Sam Bradford, Oklahoma: I’ll never quite understand this one. I get that he’s tall, intelligent and somewhat accurate, but he seems to have a noodle arm and I’m not sold on his overall athleticism. He also has no experience in a pro-style offense. Bradford just doesn’t seem as good as last year’s 1st round QBs (Stafford, Sanchez, Freeman). He might be the best QB in this class, but he’s not good enough for #1 overall. They do need a QB, but they should just trade out of this spot for multiple lower picks.
2. Detroit Lions – DT Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska: The best player available in the draft. He should be the #1 pick but won’t be because St. Louis doesn’t want to pay a DT like a franchise QB. Suh will really help the Lions improve their awful run defense. This team is going in the right direction and will be a playoff team in 2-3 years, followed by several years of contention.
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – DT Gerald McCoy, Oklahoma: Another dominant DT who could actually go ahead of Suh. TB was another team with an awful run defense last year. McCoy fits well with their 4-3 defense.
4. Washington Redskins – OT Russell Okung, Oklahoma State: Having a franchise left tackle for solid pass protection is a huge advantage in today’s pass-oriented NFL. Just ask the Jets and Dolphins, who are thrilled with their recent high picks for a LT. Even if Suh or McCoy are still available at this spot, Mike Shanahan will make the smart choice and pick Okung, as they are switching to a 3-4 defense, are already paying DT Albert Haynesworth a huge salary, and neither Suh or McCoy would be solid 3-4 nose tackles.
5. Kansas City Chiefs – OT Bryan Bulaga, Iowa: A solid building block for a building team at #5. Should help to protect that stud Matt Cassell (…).
6. Seattle Seahawks – OT Anthony Davis, Rutgers: Tough to predict, except that they won’t be choosing a QB (absurd Whitehurst trade). My guess is that they’ll want to replace Walter Jones and protect the unproven QB for whom they gave up too much and will pay too much. Pete Carroll is an idiot but this will be a smart choice if he makes it.
7. Cleveland Brown – S Eric Berry, Tennessee: Although I fully expect Eric Mangini to attempt to trade down from this spot, and all other high spots until he is fired, Mike Holmgren will make a fantastic choice at #7 for the athletic, playmaking safety. With the right player, Safety is the game’s most exciting position.
8. Oakland Raiders – S Taylor Mays, USC: Some people argue that maybe Al Davis has learned his lesson about reaching for athletic players with great workouts but less on-field value. I am not one of those people. Mays is a first-round talent, but not a top-ten talent. Ball-hawking safety Earl Thomas of Texas would be a better choice, especially with Nnamdi Asomugha already in the secondary.
9. Buffalo Bills – QB Jimmy Clausen, Notre Dame: Again, I would not take a QB in the top 10 of this draft. Too much talent at other positions. However, the Bills do need one. The Dolphins, Patriots, and Jets will feast on Clausen for 2-3 years but there is a good chance he can be a solid starter after Buffalo figures out how to protect him.
10. Jacksonville Jaguars – DE Derrick Morgan, Georgia Tech: It’s essential to have a solid pass-rusher in the NFL today, and this is a position of need for Jacksonville.
11. Denver Broncos – ILB Rolando McClain, Alabama: A big run-stuffing linebacker that will complement Denver’s new defensive line nicely. The team’s pass rush and secondary are pretty good already and McClain will make the defense more complete and is a sure bet.
12. Miami Dolphins – OLB Sergio Kindle, Texas: It’s clear that Miami does not care much about the WR position, even though it’s their neediest position and this is a good spot to take one to help Chad Henne. This is a predictable pick for Bill Parcells but a good one. He loves good pass-rushing OLB’s and Kindle is beastly. The Dolphins do need someone like him, albeit less than they do a gamebreaking receiver.
13. San Francisco 49ers – CB Joe Haden, Florida: A player with speed, physicality, and intelligence for the coach that covets all three of these attributes on defense.
14. Seattle Seahawks – RB CJ Spiller, Clemson: I could also see them taking a good pass-rusher here, but if Spiller is still available at this spot he’d be too good for them to pass up at #14 and would vastly improve their running game immediately.
15. New York Giants – S Earl Thomas, Texas: Despite all of the talk about the Giants taking a linebacker to replace Antonio Pierce, the secondary needs some help as well. Thomas would be a solid pick here and the Giants will thank the Raiders for taking Taylor Mays instead of him.
16. Tennessee Titans – DE Jason Pierre-Paul, South Florida: The Titans will look to develop him as the replacement for Kyle Vanden Bosch, as he has a ton of potential as an explosive pass-rusher.
17. San Francisco 49ers – G Mike Iupati, Idaho: A crushing guard who will fit Mike Singletary’s offensive philosophy perfectly. Frank Gore will be thrilled with this pick.
18. Pittsburgh Steelers – CB Kyle Wilson, Boise State: The ‘Burgh needs a solid cornerback to help out Ike Taylor and Wilson may be better than Joe Haden and could turn into a steal at this pick. As of right now though, he’d be an appropriate selection at #18.
19. Atlanta Falcons – DE/OLB Brandon Graham, Michigan: A hybrid pass-rusher that would be a great selection for Atlanta now that they’ve helped shore up their secondary with CB Dunta Robinson. Also, DE John Abraham is bound to lose a step or two, possibly sooner rather than later.
20. Houston Texans – RB Ryan Mathews, Fresno State: With the top two CBs off the board at this point, Houston should pick the RB whose stock is soaring and could finally give them the dependable, every-down RB they need.
21. Cincinnati Bengals – TE Jermaine Gresham, Oklahoma: The best TE in the draft will give Cincinnati a solid 3rd option in the passing game for Carson Palmer and will make their offense complete. They could go for a safety here if one of the top three are still available; I’ve also heard rumors of WR Golden Tate going here as a slot receiver.
22. New England Patriots – DE/DT Jared Odrick, Penn State: A versatile D-Lineman who can perform well in a 3-4 defense because of his strength to play at either defensive end or tackle. A natural replacement for Richard Seymour and Jarvis Green.
23. Green Bay Packers – C/G Maurkice Pouncey, Florida: Will immediately help protect Aaron Rodgers and open holes for Ryan Grant and is a solid, if unsexy, pick at #23.
24. Philadelphia Eagles – Carlos Dunlap, DE, Florida: Has great speed and athleticism but also character issues off the field and consistency issues on the field. Philly could use a solid pass-rusher though and could even use him strictly for passing situations.
25. Baltimore Ravens – WR Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State: Character issues may be likely to cause Bryant to fall this far, and Baltimore will be pleasantly surprised. He is too good to pass up at #25. Yes, they did trade for Anquan Boldin. But he and Derrick Mason are on the wrong side of 30, and Baltimore should load up on playmakers for the cannon arm of Joe Flacco.
26. Arizona Cardinals – LB Sean Witherspoon, Missouri: Having just lost Karlos Dansby to Miami, ‘Zona would be smart to draft an athletic, versatile linebacker to replace him for the long term.
27. Dallas Cowboys – OT Bruce Campbell, Maryland: Can start immediately and eventually replace Flozell Adams as the team’s best offensive lineman. Campbell had a monster performance at the scouting combine.
28. San Diego Chargers – RB Jahvid Best, California: They simply cannot feature Darren Sproles as the every down running back, and Best had a superb college career and is not necessarily a reach here. He’s likely to be the best RB available at this spot. I would just feel bad for Best as they are not a running team anymore and the offensive line does not play with the aggressive mentality necessary for a running back to flourish.
29. New York Jets – DT Terrence Cody, Alabama: If Cody is still available here, I guarantee that the Jets will take him. Kris Jenkins has maybe a few solid years left, but their 3-4 D-line needs another big guy to help stuff the run even now. The dominant nose tackle “Mount Cody” could eventually replace Big Jenks and would rotate in and out with him for the next few years, possibly also seeing time at DE to stuff the run on 1st and 2nd down. The Jets may also look for a solid pass rusher (Everson Griffen) or slot receiver (Jordan Shipley/Golden Tate) at this spot, but Rex Ryan will not be able to resist Cody if he is available.
30. Minnesota Vikings – CB Devin McCourty, Rutgers: They Vikings need a corner and could also go for Patrick Robinson of Florida State here. I think that McCourty’s special-teams and playmaking abilities are what will sway Brad Childress here, as he covets explosiveness.
31. Indianapolis Colts – DT Dan Williams. Tennessee: Indy also needs a CB and will look at Patrick Robinson, McCourty, and Kareem Jackson of Alabama if they are still available. But the Colts and GM Bill Polian tend to employ a best-player-available strategy as opposed to drafting based on needs, and if Williams falls here he’ll give their defensive line and overall run defense some much needed size and strength to complement the speed they already possess. I doubt they’ll look too hard at WR even if the best player available is one because they’re fully loaded at WR already.
32. New Orleans Saints – DE Everson Griffen, USC: The reigning world champions will be ecstatic to snag a DE at the end of Round 1 who is perfect in a 4-3 defense that loves to blitz and make plays. Gregg Williams will send Griffen after the opposing quarterback constantly and he could be a double-digit sack guy if he can adapt quickly to the pro game. A solid replacement for Charles Grant.