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NFL Mock Draft - Round One
Mike Courter
April 14, 2008
1 Miami Dolphins – Jake Long, OT, Michigan
With so many needs on both offense and defense, Bill Parcells hits safely here, opting to start at the foundation, choosing the powerful offensive tackle from Michigan as the No. 1 overall pick.  The Tuna has a longstanding fondness for big, strong University of Michigan tackles (see Jumbo Elliott) and believes in building along the front lines.  Long’s strength and aggressive demeanor make him a natural right tackle, but the surprising athleticism he displayed at the Indianapolis Scouting Combine showed he could anchor the money spot on the left side of the line as well, making him an ideal poster boy for the South Beach chapter of the Bill Parcells football odyssey.
2 St. Louis Rams – Glenn Dorsey, DT, LSU
Interior defensive tackle has been a bugaboo for the Rams for quite some time, and rather than draft DE Chris Long after selecting Nebraska DE Adam Carriker with the 13th overall pick in the 2007 Draft, the Rams will pluck the highly disruptive and dominant Dorsey to man a defensive tackle spot and move Carriker back to his natural DE position, instantly making the defensive line younger, faster and more powerful across the front. 
3 Atlanta Falcons – Vernon Gholston, DE, Ohio State
The Falcons are another team with many need area’s and will be tempted to take Boston College QB Matt Ryan here, but ultimately they select the Ohio State standout, and most impressive athlete in the 2008 Draft class.  With new head coach Mike Smith in desperate need of defensive playmakers, Gholston will provide him a freakish blend of strength and speed to deploy against opposing offenses.
4 Oakland Raiders – Chris Long, DE, Virginia
Southern California defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis will be inviting here, especially as a replacement for the retired Warren Sapp, but having Howie’s son, arguably the top talent in the Draft fall to them, Oakland is compelled to pull the trigger on this unplanned public relations/ marketing coup.  The Raiders will move newly re-signed Tommy Kelly inside to replace Sapp and unleash Howie 2.0 on a new generation of opposing quarterbacks.
5 Kansas City Chiefs – Matt Ryan, QB, Boston College
No poker face here.  The Chiefs sent a noticeable cadre of scouts and personnel types to Ryan’s late March workout on the Boston College campus where he threw for NFL teams after foregoing the QB position drills at the Combine.  Kansas City gets a gamer at a critical position and the former B.C. Eagle instantly becomes a good bet to displace unimpressive Brodie Croyle by the time this year’s training camp breaks.
6 New York Jets – Darren McFadden, RB, Arkansas
Gang Green runs to the podium with this selection harboring visions of the Vikings successful Adrian Peterson / Chester Taylor model from last season.   Having recently infused Pro Bowl guard Alan Faneca between young and improving C Nick Mangold and LT D’Brickashaw Ferguson, the Jets seek to pour gasoline on their running game fire with the choice of the game-breaking former Arkansas Razorback.  In a surprisingly deep running back class, fueled by a wave of early-entry candidates, McFadden stands head and shoulders above the pack in terms of his ability to break open games with the long run, an element the Jets offense has never featured, ever.
7 New England Patriots (From 49ers) – Keith Rivers, LB, USC
With needs at both linebacker and in the secondary, New England takes the clear No.1 linebacker in the Draft and gambles on this year’s deep, quality defensive backs group that there will be a quality cover corner choice for them with the 31st pick in the second round (#62 overall).  After a stellar career at USC and standout performances in every step of the pre-Draft process, Rivers provides instant impact to an aging New England linebacker corps.
8 Baltimore Ravens – Leodis McKelvin, CB, Troy
The Ravens secondary depth was exposed last year when both Chris McAlister and Samari Rolle struggled with injuries and Rolle particularly now watches the body clock tick.  Baltimore wisely tabs McKelvin, whose physical gifts helped vault him onto the radar of NFL scouts during the Senior Bowl and Combine, with the eighth overall pick.  The Troy product will also be able to immediately contribute in the return game.  
9 Cincinnati Bengals – Sedrick Ellis, DT, USC
The Bengals finally get some good news in what has been a relentlessly difficult off season when Sedrick Ellis is available at the ninth overall selection.  Marvin Lewis gets to add an instant difference-maker in his defensive interior, with Ellis able to play nose in a 3-4 or tackle in a 4-3.  Ellis dominated Senior Bowl week from start to finish, even putting on a show in the game, which wasn’t necessary as all of the NFL scouts leave after Friday’s practice, and he rebounded from some unexpected workout results at the Combine with a strong Pro Day performance on the campus of Southern Cal.
10 New Orleans Saints – Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB, Middle Tennessee State
After allowing 15 plays of 40 yards or more in 2007 (tied for the highest amount in the NFL with Baltimore), New Orleans addresses their biggest need area, by far, with the choice of DRC.  Rodgers-Cromartie, sporting the NFL bloodlines by way of cousin DB Antonio Cromartie of the Chargers, answered questions about his tackling and coverage skills in resounding fashion at the Senior Bowl and then added the knockout punch at the Combine, showing off world class speed (4.33 forty) for NFL personnel executives.
11 Buffalo Bills – Mike Jenkins, CB, South Florida
Seeking a bookend cover corner to fill the side opposite of Terrence McGee, Buffalo grabs arguably the most physically gifted defensive back in the Draft.  With adequate size (5-10, 197) and above average speed (4.44 forty),  Jenkins is widely considered to be a legitimate cover corner, though he does come with a prima donna label and tended to freelance more than he should have on the college level.    
12 Denver Broncos – Ryan Clady, OT, Boise State
The recent retirement of steady, long-time left tackle Matt Lepsis makes the selection of Clady at the No. 12 spot a natural choice.  The early entry tackle combines size (6-6, 309), exceptional arm length (36 ¾) and a natural athleticism that makes the game appear easy for him, despite the need for further polishing of his technique.  His physical gifts and high potential should give the Broncos a possible Pro Bowl fixture at the left tackle position for the next ten years, provided he maintains a strong focus on getting better. 
13 Carolina Panthers – Branden Albert, OG, Virginia
Howie Long gushed about Albert’s pro potential after watching him play against his son, Chris, in practice these past few seasons at Virginia.  Albert has the size (6-6, 310) and athleticism to start at guard or tackle which directly addresses Carolina’s O-line depth deficiencies.   As any team would hope for with their first round selection, Albert’s talent and overall football player package will provide an a positive impact to the Panthers in his first year. 
14 Chicago Bears – Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Illinois
Bears OC Ron Turner recruited Mendenhall to Illinois when he coached there and is said to be lobbying to add the explosive, do-it-all back to a Chicago offense in dire need of a game-breaker.  With former 1st round pick Cedric Benson woefully underachieving in his role as franchise back, Mendenhall offers the Bears Personnel brain trust a chance at redemption with this selection. The former Illinois product’s muscular frame and blazing straight-line speed have garnered comparisons to Herschel Walker, the University of Georgia version.  
15 Detroit Lions – Derrick Harvey, DE, Florida
Lions defensive-minded head coach Rod Marinelli gets his screaming-wolf pass rusher off the edge to further bolster a young and emerging defense.  Detroit, having traded Shaun Rogers to Cleveland and released veteran Kalimba Edwards (now with Oakland), get a much-needed pass-rushing compliment to reliable DE Dewayne White.
16 Arizona Cardinals – Antoine Cason, CB, Arizona
Cason, the 2007 Jim Thorpe Award winner, gives the Cards a big, physical cover corner, ideally suited for Cover-2 schemes, who also possesses punt-return ability.  Cason has flew under the radar compared to other DB’s during the pre-draft process, but his 4.49 forty at the Combine as part of an overall impressive showing in Indianapolis answered any remaining questions about his long speed.  A high character guy with NFL bloodlines (father Wendell played for the Falcons, and cousins KenYon Rambo-Cowboys in 2001-02 and Aveion Cason-most recently with the Lions), Cason can also fill in at the safety spot, making him a solid first round value here.
17 Minnesota Vikings – Calais Campbell, DE, Miami
The Vikings defensive end need was made even worse by the news of DE Kenechi Udeze contracting leukemia, forcing the Vikings into a bit of a reach with the pick of the 6-8, 282 pound junior defensive end.  Campbell’s frame gives him the all-world potential tag, but he did not help himself with a lackluster final season as a Hurricane and a questionable performance at the Combine.  Campbell’s NFL-ready body, great sophomore season and athletic feet are enough to compel the Vikes to roll the dice on him at the 17 spot.
18 Houston Texans – Jeff Otah, OT, Pittsburgh
Texans get a big-bodied gem (6-6, 325) to instantly make their offensive line larger and more physical.  Otah is considered by many to be second only to Michigan’s  Jake Long in the offensive tackle group of this year’s Draft and the Texans offensive line finally receives long-awaited good news.
19 Philadelphia Eagles – DaJuan Morgan, S, N.C. State
Philadelphia acquires a young physical playmaking Robin to Brian Dawkins’ Batman, not only infusing youth into an aging secondary but also addressing a need in the return game.  An early declaree, Morgan combines a well-sculpted physique with fluid hips that allow him to show good lateral range in centerfield as well as the ability to get to the sideline in a hurry to deliver the big hit.  Having played on a subpar Wolf pack defense where he tried to do too much, the former baseball and track star holds immense upside, and has his best football ahead of him.  
20 Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Devin Thomas, WR, Michigan State
After exploding onto the scene during his junior season at Michigan State with 79 receptions for 1,260 yards and eight touchdowns, Thomas declared early for the 2008 Draft and his decision to turn pro has been validated by an impressive pre-draft body of work.  The 6-2, 216 pound pass-catcher boasts an exceptional size speed package (4.40 forty) and showed a knack for making big plays in key spots for the Spartans last season.  With aging vets Joey Galloway and Ike Hilliard in rapid-decline mode and inconsistent youngsters Michael Clayton and Maurice Stovall rounding out the receiving corps, Thomas will be expected to make an immediate contribution to the Tampa passing attack and in the return game.
21 Washington Redskins – Phillip Merling, DE, Clemson
Powerful, tough and competitive, the 6-5, 278 pound DE provides Washington with a defensive line asset ideally suited as a 4-3 base DE, but also has the versatility to move inside on passing downs, similar to what how the Giants used DE Justin Tuck so effectively in last year’s Super Bowl Championship run.
22 Dallas Cowboys (From Browns) – Jonathan Stewart, RB, Oregon
Jerry Jones’ prudence in passing on making a blockbuster trade-up to get Darren McFadden is handsomely rewarded when injury concerns and questions about the spread offense cause the immensely talented Stewart to drop to #22 overall.  There are some scouts who have him rated as the No.1 overall RB in this Draft and “Pro Bowl talent” is used generously by NFL teams describing the gifted 5-11, 235 pound mail-carrier. 
23 Pittsburgh Steelers – Kenny Phillips, S, Miami
Last season, Troy Polamalu’s health struggles, in combination with the loss of FS Ryan Clark, forced a not-ready-for-primetime Anthony Clark onto the field and he was exposed against the Patriots and the Jaguars.  Phillips has great size (6-2, 212) and moves well enough to run with and cover the tight end, giving him a chance to contribute right away.  His talent and collegiate playing experience (started as a true freshman at Miami in ’05) give the Steelers a day one starter to help boost the overworked Polamalu.
24 Tennessee Titans – Limas Sweed, WR, Texas
Vince Young desperately needs a difference-maker in his receiving corps and the Titans deliver one to him, reuniting him with fellow Longhorn Limas Sweed.  Sweed pairs above-average vertical speed with a 6-4, 215 pound frame and a strong desire to succeed which made him a consistent big-play guy at the University of  Texas.  A wrist injury that he played through his senior season was not fully recovered by the Senior Bowl, somewhat marring his evaluation there, much to the Titans draft-day delight.
25 Seattle Seahawks – Gosder Cherilus, OT, Boston College
Perennial Pro Bowl LT Walter Jones is now 34 years old and persistent shoulder injuries have hampered him in the last few seasons.  The nearly 6-7, 316 pound Cherilus will become the power-blocking heir-apparent in the Seahawks offense.  Cherilus has extremely long arms (36.5 inches) and monster mitts (11-3/4 inches) and can play both tackle positions.  He plays with a noticeable anger and looks to punish defenders.  Seattle is an ideal situation for him as he can compete from day one to start at right tackle but also spend the next few seasons learning the left side as Jones’ career winds down.  
26 Jacksonville Jaguars – Chris Williams, OT, Vanderbilt
The Jaguars aren’t crazy about their current pair of starting offensive tackles, Tony Pashos and Khalif Barnes, and are more than pleased when the fast-rising Williams becomes available at this spot.  The 6-6, 315 left tackle is smart, athletic and productive and has seen his draft stock steadily rise after superb performances at the Senior Bowl and the Scouting Combine.  Showed he could handle difficult edge rushers in college when he contained Florida DE Derrick Harvey, but his “plays too nice” tag has been hard for him to shake, despite showing some snarl in a few Senior Bowl practice dust-ups.
27 San Diego Chargers – Dan Connor, ILB, Penn State
The Chargers will roll the dice on this deep defensive back class and address that need in the latter rounds in order to strike a forceful blow toward beefing up their nondescript inside line-backing corps with the Chuck Bednarik Award-winner.  Extremely productive (finished as Penn State’s all-time leading tackler), Connor’s a smart, instinctual player who always seems to be around the ball.  The 6-2, 235 lbs playmaker may have to bulk up some to stay inside at the pro level, but his impressive showing at the Senior Bowl and Combine validate this pick, and arm the Chargers with another defensive playmaker to wreak havoc next to OLB Shawne Merriman.    
28 Dallas Cowboys – DeShean Jackson, WR, California
The Cowboys aging and thin receiving corps gets a much needed bundle of youth and mercurial speed on the outside in the big-play receiver from Cal-Berkeley.  Jackson’s 4.39 forty is no lie as he appears just as fast on game film.  He’s a cushion-eater who gets on top of defensive backs quickly and can reverse field and pull away from the pack, making the Cowboys special teams that much more special.  Jackson should start off as a slot receiver which should help protect his smallish frame (5-9, 169) from the big hit and help him exploit single coverage on third downs.
29 San Francisco 49ers (From Colts) – Brandon Flowers, CB, Virginia Tech
Walt Harris is now 33 years old, a death knell at the defensive back position, and No.3 on the depth chart Shawntae Spencer has had trouble staying healthy, making the selection of Flowers at #29 an appropriate decision.  The Va. Tech junior plays with a heightened physicality and carries a noticeable on-field swagger about him.  Scouts see him flourishing in Cover-2 schemes dues to his superb open field tackling ability and route recognition skills.
30 Green Bay Packers – Justin King, CB, Penn State
Watching veteran defensive backs Charles Woodson and Al Harris wear down toward the end of the season make this pick highly warranted.  King will infuse youth and elite physical talent into the Packers secondary, boasting an exceptional blend of size (5-11, 190) and speed (4.31 forty) that will help him overcome his average instincts and lack of experience since declaring early for this year’s Draft.
31 New York Giants – Malcolm Kelly, WR, Oklahoma
Once perched at the top of the WR position of the 2008 Draft class, injury concerns coupled with his recent Pro Day debacle in which he blamed the OU training staff for having him run on the slower, soft Astroturf surface which resulted in a 4.68 as his best forty yard dash time, Kelly falls to the Giants at the end of the first round.  The former Oklahoma Sooner uses his great size (6-4 , 224) and wingspan to create match-up problems for opposing defensive backs and has outstanding hands and great body control.  Kelly makes great sense for the Giants, who’ve watched Plaxico Burress become increasingly injury-prone, Amani Toomer experience another birthday with young receivers Sinorice Moss (inconsistency) and Steve Smith (injuries) making limited contributions last season.   

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