Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Well, I F'd Up - 2008 NFL Mock Draft 2.0

I thought I had this year figured out - posting my predictions for the first 16 overall picks of the 2008 NFL draft. Then Jake Long gets signed by the Dolphins yesterday. Here's my second shot at forecasting the draft - the changes may surprise you.

1. Miami Dolphins - Jake Long - OT, Michigan

Well, I had absolutely convinced myself that Long’s contract negotiations were simply bait to lure other teams into trading for the number one pick – but it seems that the behemoth out of the Big Ten was Bill Parcells’ guy. He should be a cornerstone of the team for a decade.

2. St. Louis Rams - Chris Long - DE, Virginia

There have been rumblings about New Orleans trading with the Rams to secure Glenn Dorsey here, but I think the Rams want first crack at a defensive player. I’ve been a fan of Chris Long as a top pick in this draft because he’s the closest player to being a sure thing. Whether they go with Long or Gholston, the drafting of a remarkable talent at DE will allow them to move last year’s pick, Adam Carriker, inside to defensive tackle.

3. Atlanta Falcons - Glenn Dorsey - DT, LSU

I’ve always had the Falcons going with their choice between the two top tackles on the board, but with the Dolphins taking Jake Long overall, there’s no choice left to make – Glenn Dorsey will be the first step to a rebuilding Falcons squad. Matt Ryan has been mentioned here, but given the depreciation of Quarterbacks on draft day (see: Brady Quinn), I expect Atlanta to wait until round two, where they have three picks and the choice between candidates #3-5.

4. Oakland Raiders - Darren McFadden - RB, Arkansas

Al Davis loves physical specimens – he’s a freak enthusiast. That has led me to conclude that this pick is up to Darren McFadden and Vernon Gholston – the two best pure athletes for each side of the ball. Given the needs between the two teams – whoever the Raiders don’t pick will fall to the Jets. Despite the Justin Fargas contract suggestion, I think the Raiders load up on offense and select Run DMC – he has Adrian Peterson potential.

5. Kansas City Chiefs - Brandon Albert - OG, Virginia

For WEEKS, I’ve been resolute that Matt Ryan gets picked by the Chiefs. Brodie Croyle, a third round pick, has been less than stellar when given the opportunity to start, and Kansas City needs someone who will keep eight men out of the box so Larry Johnson can last a full season.

However, given the Chief’s agreement with the Minnesota Vikings to trade reigning sack leader Jared Allen for first and third round picks, this gives Kansas City flexibility to wait on selecting a quarterback. Here they take the player with the fastest rising stock, guard/tackle Brandon Albert to improve the offensive line for both LJ and their future signal caller.

6. New York Jets - Vernon Gholston - DE, Ohio State

The Jets had a miserable time getting to the quarterback last year – investing in a cornerback in the first round (as they did last year) doesn’t pay off when you don’t have a pass rush. The ‘other’ New York franchise, the Giants, showed that if you knock Tom Brady around, he’s no longer unstoppable – who better than the workout beast Gholston to do so?

7. New England Patriots - Leodis McKelvin - CB, Troy

Surprisingly enough, the team that almost went 19-0 has to go with a need pick: both lockdown corner Asante Samuel and commodity Randall Gay left in free agency this past off season. While linebacker is a depth issue for the Patriots, cornerback is more pressing and there’s no reason not to take the top corner available with this pick. McKelvin also has return skills – an attribute that has become more appreciated since Devin Hester’s impact on the NFL.

8. Baltimore Ravens - Matt Ryan - QB, Boston College

This is the ideal situation for the rebuilding Ravens – both the top quarterback in the draft and one of the top cornerbacks are available. Though their secondary showed it was vulnerable to depth issues last season, they won’t pass up on the opportunity to get the new face of their franchise at a bargain price. Steve McNair is retired, Kyle Boller never panned out, and Troy Smith is still a huge question mark – Ryan finds himself in a great situation to make an impact.

9. Cincinatti Bengals - Sedrick Ellis - DT, USC

The Bengals have never figured out that defense wins championships – either that, or they have done a bad job evaluating talent for their team. Though linebacker is also a need area, I predict that Cincinnati will anchor their offensive lines with Ellis, who wowed scouts at USC’s pro day. He’s a force up the middle and if the Bengals don’t take him, he’ll be gone by the Bronco’s pick.

10. New Orleans Saints - Keith Rivers - OLB, USC

The Saints’ mediocre defense finally caught up to them. That, combined with the sudden suckitude of the offensive line and loss of Deuce McAllister, left them to struggle to a 7-9 record last year after nearly making it to the Super Bowl in the 06-07 season. Rivers is the consensus top linebacker in the 2008 class and could bolster a less than intimidating unit. A member of the secondary could also be selected here.

11. Buffalo Bills - Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie - CB, Tennessee State

When one thinks about the Bills’ needs, a big, physical complement to speedster Lee Evans comes to mind immediately. Unfortunately, this is a relatively weak receiver class that has no one worth taking at 11.

Since the departure of Nate Clements to San Francisco, the Bills have had a need at corner. In this situation, they get the 6’1” Rodgers-Cromartie, cousin of Antonio Cromartie of the Chargers, whose only downside is that he has one kidney.

12. Denver Broncos – Jerod Mayo – LB, Tennessee

This is incredibly high for a guy who could fall to the second round. Despite my and many other Penn Staters’ love for Dan Connor, this has been called a terrible line backing draft class, with only Keith Rivers warranting a top 15 pick. However, Mike Shanahan makes bad calls when drafting, and I could see him reaching for Mayo out of desperation to fix the Broncos’ terrible run defense – that is, if he can’t trade up or down from here. The man loves to wheel and deal on draft day.

13. Carolina Panthers - Ryan Clady - OT, Boise State

The Panthers got off to the right start in drafting center Ryan Kalil out of USC last year – their offensive line has failed to protect the quarterback, whether it’s Delhomme or Matt Moore, and done a miserable job of opening holes for running backs. Clady is not quite the talent that Jake Long is, but had a great showing in bowl games in college and can be a fixture for the panthers.

14. Chicago Bears - Chris Williams - OT, Vanderbilt

This is one of the picks that I still like from my original mock draft – Chris Williams just makes sense for the offensively-challenged Bears. Brian Brohm isn’t worth taking at #14, as his stock has fallen significantly in the past year, and the Bears have too many defensive players to settle financial concerns with before they sign a new one. Their offensive line made them the class of the NFC North, and only two years later, it has aged quickly. Williams made Jay Cutler a star and can do the same for a Bears signal caller – if they bother to draft someone worth starting.

15. Detroit Lions - Rashard Mendenhall - RB, Illinois

Jeff Otah would be a very reasonable pick here. Unfortunately for Lions’ fans, Matt Millen isn’t known as reasonable – he puts skill players’ stock about linemen in every draft – to the point of taking wide receiver Calvin Johnson last year before instant Pro-Bowler Joe Thomas was off the board.

The other reason why Mendenhall gets taken here is that he’s too talented to last past #15. The Arizona Cardinals would take him to pair with over the hill Edgerrin James in a heartbeat. For once, the Millen mindset might be the right one – Rashard Mendenhall could start immediately and carry the ball for the hapless Lions’ in Kevin Jones’ stead.

16. Arizona Cardinals - Mike Jenkins - CB, South Florida

I really thought that Lito Sheppard would join Rod Hood as former members of the Eagles secondary building a respectable Cardinals defense. Regrettably, the team decided to re-negotiate Larry Fitzgerald’s contract and refuse to hear offers on Anquan Boldin, and will therefore not make a trade with the Eagles for the Pro-Bowl corner.

Fortunately for Arizona, they can keep their dynamic duo at wideout and draft a potential Pro-Bowler without the injury history – Mike Jenkins, who at the beginning of the offseason was ranked as the top prospect.

17. Kansas City Chiefs (Received from Minnesota in exchange for DE Jared Allen) - Brian Brohm - QB, Louisville

I can’t make up my mind on the value of Quarterbacks in this draft – Matt Ryan’s selection affects everyone else’s standings. If he suffers a Brady Quinn-like fall to double-digits, there’s no way Brohm gets picked here. However, given the trade of Jared Allen, I love the options that two first round picks give Kansas City. This way they can shore up their offensive line while pushing Brodie Croyle to be the player they drafted him to be – or starting all over at the position.

18. Houston Texans - Jeff Otah - OT, Pittsburgh

The Texans savvy in bringing new personnel has paid off – though he was injured for half the season, Matt Schaub took Andre Johnson to new levels, and DE Mario Williams is finally looking ‘Super’. But for the Texans to challenge their rivals in the toughest division in football, they’ll need a strong rushing attack. Unfortunately, they will not draft a running back here because of all the money tied up in Ahman Green – instead they will open up lanes for the overpaid back by selecting the 300-plus pound Otah.

19. Philadelphia Eagles - Kenny Phillips - FS, Miami

Why is this a no-brainer to nobody but me? Draftniks that have Kenny Phillips holding up a Birds jersey are in the minority – others have Philly going with offensive line or receiver. The Eagles’ offensive line is getting a little old and depth is an issue, but with a class this steep, they should worry about an aging player elsewhere – Brian Dawkins.

Brian Dawkins is perhaps my favorite Eagles player – he’s a beast, a human highlight reel, and a future hall of famer. But he can’t keep giving out those hits without a little bit of self-inflicted damage. Phillips can either serve as his understudy or supplant the mediocre Sean Considine.

20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Devin Thomas - WR, Michigan St.

I loved the idea of Calvin Johnson in burgundy and pewter last year – but he was taken by the Lions before Jon Gruden could get his newest offensive toy. Devin Thomas is no ‘Megatron’, but he does have the potential to be an elite NFL receiver. Despite his mere one year of Division 1 experience, he has the physical tools and instinct to succeed Joey Galloway in Tampa Bay.

21. Washington Redskins - Malcolm Kelly - WR, Oklahoma

Safety, in light of the tragic death of Sean Taylor, is a glaring need for the Redskins, but Kenny Phillips is the only player worth taking in round one. The defensive line also lacks playmakers, but the top two tackles are off the board.

Santana Moss and Antwaan Randle-el are both under six feet tall, so it makes sense for the Skins to take a big, over the middle wideout at 21. A trade for Chad Johnson was attempted earlier this week, but I don’t know why they would give up more than (potentially) two first round picks when they can draft a young guy (without the diva issues) for half the price.

22. Dallas Cowboys – DeSean Jackson – WR, Cal

DeSean Jackson had a miserable second half of his year, but his return skills make him an electrifying player. If he lasts to the twenties, I can’t imagine Dallas passing him up with both their picks. With Razorback Felix Jones being the presumed selection for #28, that leaves depth at wide receiver or corner the principal needs for Jerry Jones to address. The Titans just agreed in principle to trade the Cowboys Pacman Jones for a fourth round pick, hence giving WR the edge at #22.

23. Pittsburgh Steelers - Jonathan Stewart - RB, Oregon

It’s hard for me to accurately predict who the Steelers will take – I inevitably forecast what I want to happen. Last year it was Paul Posluzny. This year, outside of the possibility of trading down for the Falcons to snatch up Brian Brohm (impossible with this scenario), I have become infatuated with Jonathan Stewart.

Stewart was once considered the second best tailback in the draft class, but his toe injury has made his stock plummet. However, if he were given time to heal, he could be the inside runner the Steelers have been missing since Jerome Bettis.

But more likely, the Steelers will take the best defensive prospect on the board – a more responsible but less instantly-gratifying decision.

24. Tennessee Titans - Limas Sweed - WR, Texas

The Titans need to get Vince Young someone to throw to. Name one Tennessee wide receiver. There’s my point. Why not get Sweed, who has already had experience catching Young’s passes? He’s not pegged to be a superstar, but may be the best option to get the passing game going for the Tiatns.

25. Seattle Seahawks – Kentwan Balmer – DT, North Carolina

The Seahawks already have an unsung defense with underrated performers like Lofa Tatupu, but Balmer has tremendous upside and could make the unit more widely respected. Despite the singings of TJ Duckett and Julius Jones, I have no doubt Jonathan Stewart will be taken to replaced recently cut Shaun Alexander if he somehow falls to #25.

26. Jacksonville Jaguars – Derrick Harvey – DE, Florida

This would be a deal for the Jags – Harvey has been ranked as high as the early teens in many mock drafts. Called a ‘more complete Gaines Adams’ by, he can get to the quarterback and continue the tradition of a stout Jacksonville defense.

27. San Diego Chargers - Gosder Cherilus - OT, Boston College

The Chargers don’t have a lot of needs – they are the most restrained team in free agency, and as a result, always have young guys ready to step in for those who leave for the market or get injured. Cherilus, a second-tier talent at tackle, is a great fit for San Diego and will be groomed to start when he is ready.

28. Dallas Cowboys - Felix Jones - RB, Arkansas

Jerry Jones isn’t going to sell the farm to get Darren McFadden – it just doesn’t make sense. What he does get is the guy who rushed very well in Run DMC’s shadow. Jones will not only replace but make fans forget completely about Julius Jones, who signed with the Seahawks this offseason.

29. San Francisco 49ers – Calias Campbell – DE, Miami

At 6’8”, Calias Campbell is a physical monster. His stock has fallen recently, but a team that began a commitment to forge a defense last year could be desperate to roll the dice on a guy who could come out of nowhere and be a stud.

30. Green Bay Packers - Aqib Talib - CB, Kansas

The Pack has two great corners in Al Harris and Charles Woodson, but they are both over thirty and the suddenly de-valued Talib would be a great insurance policy. Because of his admitted marijuana exploits, the Kansas defensive standout’s athletic ability has been forgotten. Despite character being a more highly valued commodity in the league, Green Bay gets a steal who happens to like the ‘Green’.

31. New York Giants - Dan Connor - LB, Penn State

Dan Connor shouldn’t fall this far, but I’m biased. Even if he does near getting passed over by every team in the first round, he is a great fit for the Super Bowl Champions. Linebacker is a need and, like Paul Posluzny, Connor can start in game one for New York.

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