Mock drafts are speculation about speculation, based around reams and reams of misinformation disseminated by both teams and players. And yet they’re still fun - fun to conduct, fun to read - because they represent the new hopes of our team of choice as well as the blossoming of a new football season.
Thus far I’ve attempted to straddle the line between what teams might do based on myriad factors (published reports, rumors, team needs, past history, etc. etc.) and what I believe that team should do to improve itself. In this, the final week before the real NFL draft, I’m straddling no longer: in Mock Draft 5A, I’m putting on the GM hat for each of the 32 first-round picks; in Mock Draft 5B, I’ll set aside whatever personal biases I may have been bringing to the table, cut through the smokescreens, and give you my best educated guess as to what each club will do.
* Note that this mock draft includes hypothetical trades between the Jets and Broncos and between the Falcons and Ravens - both of which follow the general guidelines of the NFL draft pick value chart.
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1. Detroit Lions — Eugene Monroe, OT, Virginia
Mock 4.0: Jason Smith, OT, Baylor; Mock 3.0: Smith; Mock 2.0: Aaron Curry, OLB, Wake Forest; Mock 1.0: Matt Stafford, QB, Georgia
This pick could very well change if, as the real Lions GM, I’d have had the chance to meet Matt Stafford; it’s conceivable he could have convinced me that he’s a franchise quarterback. Lacking that, however, I look at the 50/50 odds of first-round quarterbacks panning out, the negative multiplier to those odds based on past performance by early-entry quarterbacks, and the very real possibility that Detroit will have a shot at Colt McCoy or Sam Bradford in next year’s draft. The Lions won’t be rebuilt overnight, and my conservative nature suggests that another David Carr- or Tim Couch-like debacle would set this franchise back another five to 10 years. As for Monroe over Jason Smith, I understand that Smith has the higher ceiling but I prefer the track record of Virginia linemen and the probability that with this pick I’m anchoring my line for the next decade. Plus, there’s the possibility Josh Freeman falls into my lap at #20, or I trade up with that 02.01 or 03.01.
2. St. Louis Rams — Jason Smith, OT, Baylor
Mock 4.0: Eugene Monroe, OT, Virginia; Mock 3.0: Monroe; Mock 2.0: Monroe; Mock 1.0: Andre Smith, OT, Alabama
As Rams’ GM I’m more than happy to settle for whichever tackle falls here to replace Orlando Pace and pave the way for Stephen Jackson, the centerpiece of my offense. I can let my defensive-minded new coach work on his side of the ball with the next two or three picks.
3. Kansas City Chiefs — Aaron Curry, OLB, Wake Forest
Mock 4.0: Curry; Mock 3.0: Curry; Mock 2.0: Everette Brown, DE/OLB, Florida State; Mock 1.0: Brown
I still believe Curry is the best player in this draft, and while Everette Brown might be the better pass rusher I want to introduce Curry to Mike Vrabel and Zach Thomas now, then plug him into my 3-4 defense for the next six to 12 years. I’m also hoping Tamba Hali can get back to giving us some of the pass rush he provided in 2007—as well as crossing my fingers that a guy like Cody Brown might still be available when we’re back on the clock in Round Three.
4. Seattle Seahawks — Mark Sanchez, QB, USC
Mock 4.0: Sanchez; Mock 3.0: B.J. Raji, DT, Boston College; Mock 2.0: Jason Smith, OT, Baylor; Mock 1.0: Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech
As Seattle GM I’m crushed that the two elite OTs are off the board here; I had my heart set on Walter Jones’ heir. If I can’t deal this pick down to an overpaying Danny Snyder or whomever else is all about Sanchez, I take him myself. After all, Matt Hasselbeck is 33 and has a bad back and an aging left tackle.
5. Cleveland Browns — Chris Wells, RB, Ohio State
Mock 4.0: Brian Orakpo, DE/OLB, Texas; Mock 3.0: Orakpo; Mock 2.0: Orakpo; Mock 1.0: Aaron Curry, LB, Wake Forest
Let’s assume I haven’t been able to trade Braylon Edwards, because if I have then this pick is Michael Crabtree and I should have another first-rounder with which to move back up the board and get Wells (if it’s the Giants’ pick, according to the NFL draft-pick value chart I can package it with my 02.06 to move back in front of the Saints). Instead, I keep Edwards and get a playmaker in the running game—a young Jamal Lewis—to operate behind a pretty decent offensive line. Then I find a way to turn those two second-rounders into edge rushers—Larry English, Connor Barwin, Cody Brown, or a package of the two which (according to the value chart) would get me back into the 18 range.
6. Cincinnati Bengals — Brian Orakpo, DE, Texas
Mock 4.0: Andre Smith, OT, Alabama; Mock 3.0: Michael Oher, OT, Mississippi; Mock 2.0: B.J. Raji, DT, Boston College; Mock 1.0: Oher
I’m an offensive line guy, so why not Smith or Oher here? I think the Bengals will be just fine with Andrew Whitworth and Anthony Collins at the tackles, and they can address the interior of their offensive line with Alex Mack, Max Unger, or Eric Wood in Round Two and Andy Levitre, Antoine Caldwell, or Kraig Urbik in Round Three. An elite pass rusher won’t be on the board at that point, and the Bengals need to apply some pressure from the outside.
7. Oakland Raiders — Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech
Mock 4.0: Crabtree; Mock 3.0: Andre Smith, OT, Alabama; Mock 2.0: Crabtree; Mock 1.0: Eugene Monroe, OT, Virginia
“What’s that, Mr. Davis? Yes, I did write Andre Smith’s name on the draft card. No, I haven’t turned it in yet. Yes, I know we desperately need a receiver. But we need to keep JaMarcus Russell upright and open holes for Darren McFadden and… what’s that? Yes, I like my job as Raiders’ GM. Yes, I’d like to keep it. Yes, sir. That’s ‘Crabtree’ with two e’s. Thank you, sir.”
8. Jacksonville Jaguars — Andre Smith, OT, Alabama
Mock 4.0: Michael Oher, OT, Mississippi; Mock 3.0: Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech; Mock 2.0: Smith; Mock 1.0: Jason Smith, OT, Baylor
If I’m going to pay Maurice Jones-Drew that much money, I’m going to make sure he has room to run. And I’ll cross my fingers and hope Kenny Britt, Hakeem Nicks, Brian Robiskie, or Juaquin Iglesias are on the board when I’m back on the clock at 02.07.
9. Green Bay Packers — B.J. Raji, DT, Boston College
Mock 4.0: Raji; Mock 3.0: Tyson Jackson, DE, LSU; Mock 2.0: Malcolm Jenkins, CB, Ohio State; Mock 1.0: Raji
The Packer M.O. would be to trade back, and there would be some value to that here; a deal that might net me a late-first or early-second and provide the ability to help my defensive line with Jackson or Peria Jerry or Jarron Gilbert while still having a shot at William Beatty to address my needs at offensive tackle would certainly be enticing. But with no one calling the hotline, I’m perfectly fine with plugging the middle of my 3-4 defense against the likes of Adrian Peterson, Matt Forte, and Kevin Smith.
10. San Francisco 49ers — Michael Oher, OT, Mississippi
Mock 4.0: Everette Brown, OLB/DE, Florida State; Mock 3.0: Jeremy Maclin, WR, Missouri; Mock 2.0: Matt Stafford, QB, Georgia; Mock 1.0: Mark Sanchez, QB, USC
The Bills’ GM is staring daggers through me; maybe it’s the victory dance that has his undies in a bunch. I really didn’t think one of the elite tackles would slide this far, so defensive help will have to wait until a later pick. I’ll admit that Stafford was tempting here, but with our renewed emphasis on the running game I think we’re good at the position for the moment.
11. Buffalo Bills — Clay Matthews, LB, USC
Mock 4.0: Aaron Maybin, DE, Penn State; Mock 3.0: Maybin; Mock 2.0: Maybin; Mock 1.0: Brian Orakpo, DE, Texas
Too late now, but maybe I should have offered our third-round pick to switch places with Green Bay. I think the best way to play it now is to take a linebacker here and hope that Brandon Pettigrew or a defensive end like Maybin or Robert Ayers is still on the board when we come back with Carolina’s pick at 28.
12. New York Jets (from Denver Broncos*) — Matthew Stafford, QB, Georgia
Mock 4.0: Stafford (for Broncos); Mock 3.0: Brian Cushing, OLB, USC (for Broncos); Mock 2.0: Rey Maualuga, ILB, USC (for Broncos); Mock 1.0: Maualuga (for Broncos)
The Denver brain trust told me Stafford didn’t fit their system, so we pulled the trigger and swapped firsts plus sent our third-round pick (#12) to Denver as well. According to the draft value chart we overpaid slightly, but now we have a strong-armed marquee quarterback. It’s like Joe Flacco all over again… I hope.
13. Washington Redskins — Aaron Maybin, DE/OLB, Penn State
Mock 4.0: Brian Cushing, OLB, USC; Mock 3.0: Clay Matthews, OLB, USC; Mock 2.0: Cushing; Mock 1.0: Maybin
According to the draft value chart, even if the Redskins gave up their entire 2009 draft they’d still only have enough clout to move up to eighth—well short of where Sanchez is expected to go. Toss in next year’s first rounder and it’s possible the Chiefs will bite, but then that would screw up next year’s mock already. I’m tempted to go with Cushing here and plant him on the strong side, but in a deep linebacker class the prudent move is to get my pass rusher now and a linebacker in Round Three when the Skins are up again.
14. New Orleans Saints — Malcolm Jenkins, CB, Ohio State
Mock 4.0: Jenkins; Mock 3.0: Jenkins; Mock 2.0: James Laurinaitis, ILB, Ohio State; Mock 1.0: Jenkins
Jason David clearly wasn’t the answer. Maybe Jenkins is, and the Saints plant him opposite Tracy Porter to plug the gaping hole in their secondary; maybe the pundits are right and Jenkins has to slide over to safety, in which case he’s likely my nickel back this year while getting some OJT from Darren Sharper. Sounds like a win-win to me. The only downside to this plan is the Saints’ lack of another pick until 04.16 with which to address running back and linebacker issues; personally, I’m okay with Pierre Thomas handling the Deuce McAllister role and I’ll take my chances hoping that Kaluka Malava or Jonathan Casillas might still be on the board in the fourth round.
15. Houston Texans — Vontae Davis, CB, Illinois
Mock 4.0: Clay Matthews, OLB, USC; Mock 3.0: Davis; Mock 2.0: Davis; Mock 1.0: D.J. Moore, CB, Vanderbilt
Houston used free agency to address issues along the defensive line, and as GM I’d like to see what I can get from last year’s draft class at some apparent positions of need—specifically, DT Frank Okam and WLB Xavier Adibi. If I can trade down out of this spot and still remain in the running for safety Louis Delmas , that would be the preferred route; maybe somebody with a hankering for Josh Freeman? Barring that, Davis has the most upside on the board and helps in an area of need.
16. San Diego Chargers — Rey Maualuga, ILB, USC
Mock 4.0: Rey Maualuga, ILB, USC; Mock 3.0: Maualuga; Mock 2.0: Michael Oher, OT, Mississippi; Mock 1.0: Eben Britton, OT, Arizona
There could be a need for a running back here, but if the Chargers are close to inking Darren Sproles to a long-term deal then a complementary player like Rashad Jennings or Javon Ringer or Glen Coffee will be available when San Diego comes back on the clock in Round Three. That frees up this pick to fill a void in the middle of the San Diego defense—and Maualuga is just the guy to do it.
17. Denver Broncos (from New York Jets*) — Everette Brown, OLB/DE, Florida State
Mock 4.0: Jeremy Maclin, WR, Missouri; Mock 3.0: Matthew Stafford, QB, Georgia; Mock 2.0: Mark Sanchez, QB, USC; Mock 1.0: Vontae Davis, CB, Illinois
On the heels of this hypothetical trade, the Broncos own a very Patriot-like six of the next 68 selections. Three third-rounders should allow them to deal up and secure nose tackle Ron Brace in the second round, so Josh McDaniel uses these back-to-back picks to shore up the edges of an overhauled defense. Brian Cushing’s versatility is tempting, but a bevy of third-round selections should yield inside help (Scott McKillop or Jasper Brinkley, perhaps); they won’t yield an edge rusher like Brown.
18. Denver Broncos (from Chicago Bears) — Tyson Jackson, DE, LSU
Mock 4.0: Jackson; Mock 3.0: Mark Sanchez, QB, USC; Mock 2.0: Jeremy Maclin, WR, Missouri (for Chicago); Mock 1.0: Maclin (for Chicago)
And here Denver gets perhaps the best 3-4 end in the draft in Jackson. And if I can find a way to turn 2.16 and the three third-rounders into Brace and Brinkley or McKillop, it’ll be time to bust out the Orange Crush 2.0 t-shirts.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Peria Jerry, DT, Mississippi
Mock 4.0: Peria Jerry, DT, Mississippi; Mock 3.0: Jerry; Mock 2.0: Jerry; Mock 1.0: Knowshon Moreno, RB, Georgia
Quick, get this pick to the podium before I change my mind again. Jeremy Maclin is oh-so tempting, and if I had concerns about the future of Antonio Bryant in Tampa I’d get out the eraser and substitute Maclin for Jerry. But I have a solid return man in Clifton Smith and a glaring need at the heart of my Tampa-2 defense, one that Jerry is uniquely qualified to fill. If I had a second-round pick that might net Ziggy Hood or Jarron Gilbert, I’d pull the trigger on Maclin. But I don’t, so I can’t.
20. Detroit Lions (from Dallas Cowboys) — James Laurinaitis, MLB, Ohio State
Mock 4.0: Laurinaitis; Mock 3.0: Laurinaitis;Mock 2.0: Eben Britton, OT, Arizona; Mock 1.0: Laurinaitis
Yes, Josh Freeman is still on the board here, but I’m not sold on the Ben Roethlisberger comparison; to me he looks like the prototypical “guy who looks like a prototypical quarterback and can throw it a mile but isn’t a franchise quarterback”. In a division where I’ll see Adrian Peterson and Matt Forte four times a year I’d like to upgrade my middle linebacker from 5-11, 229-pound Jordan Dizon to more of a thumper. Remember, I’m not expecting a quick turnaround in Detroit so I’m making the boring, building-block type picks. Hey, if Matt Millen can keep his job as long as he did picking the way he did, boring is an upgrade.
21. Philadelphia Eagles — Knowshon Moreno, RB, Georgia
Mock 4.0: Moreno; Mock 3.0: Eben Britton, OT, Arizona; Mock 2.0: Moreno; Mock 1.0: Chris “Beanie” Wells, RB, Ohio State
If Philly was still holding two firsts they could consider Jeremy Maclin here (maybe the answer to their No. 1 receiver prayers) and come back with Moreno or, at worst, Donald Brown or LeSean McCoy. Of course, they’d still have a gaping hole up front. And after Brian Westbrook tires of running behind that line, Moreno will pick up where he left off.
22. Minnesota Vikings — Eben Britton, OT, Arizona
Mock 4.0: Eben Britton, OT, Arizona; Mock 3.0: William Beatty, OT, Connecticut; Mock 2.0: Alphonso Smith, CB, Wake Forest; Mock 1.0: Beatty
As a lifelong Vikings fan, I’ve been unofficially playing this role for years. And while the rest of the country may think the Vikings are just a quarterback away from Super Bowl contention, I am painfully aware that heading into this season they will be requiring 60 percent of their offensive line to do something they haven’t done before: play quality NFL football. If center John Sullivan can fill Matt Birk’s shoes—and that’s a pretty big “if”—then the Vikings can get by with Anthony Herrera and/or Artis Hicks at guard next to Britton. The Vikings’ underachieving special teams makes a plea for a return man like Maclin, but with no protection for TarSage JacksEnfels all he’d be doing is returning kickoffs.
23. New England Patriots — Brian Cushing, OLB, USC
Mock 4.0: Clint Sintim, OLB, Virginia; Mock 3.0: Sintim; Mock 2.0: Clay Matthews, OLB, USC; Mock 1.0: Cushing
Cushing seems tailor-made for Bill Belichick’s defense; he’s versatile enough to play inside or out and will let Belichick mix and match his personnel depending on how much of his age Teddy Bruschi is showing and whether or not Adalius Thomas is living up to expectations. And after not drafting a linebacker on the first day of the draft for however many years it was until Jerod Mayo last year, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if New England tabbed fast-rising edge rusher Connor Barwin with the pick acquired for Matt Cassel.
24. Baltimore Ravens (from Atlanta Falcons*) — Jeremy Maclin, WR, Missouri
Mock 4.0: Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Oklahoma State (for Atlanta); Mock 3.0: Pettigrew (for Atlanta); Mock 2.0: Pettigrew (for Atlanta); Mock 1.0: Peria Jerry, DT, Mississippi (for Atlanta)
Playing the role of Ozzie Newsome, I’ve never been afraid to move up the draft board for a player I covet. And one thing I covet is speed. With Maclin still sitting there and the Dolphins potentially swiping him, the Ravens give up a fourth-round pick to climb two spots (a slight overpay, according to the draft value chart) and get what will be considered by many to be the steal of the draft.
25. Miami Dolphins — Robert Ayers, DE/OLB, Tennessee
Mock 4.0: Ayers; Mock 3.0: Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Maryland; Mock 2.0: Larry English, DE/OLB, Northern Illinois; Mock 1.0: Heyward-Bey
As Dolphins GM I toyed with trading down to the Titans’ spot at No. 30; they wanted Darrius Heyward-Bey here and were willing to toss a third-rounder our way to move up. But I didn’t think Ayers would make it past the Bills at 28, which would be a double-whammy: Miami misses out on him, and he stays in the division. Maybe if Big Tuna can sell me on Larry English I’ll make the deal, but right now I’m standing pat.
26. Atlanta Falcons (from Baltimore Ravens*) — Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Oklahoma State
Mock 4.0: Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Maryland (for Baltimore); Mock 3.0: Sean Smith, CB, Utah (for Baltimore); Mock 2.0: D.J. Moore, CB, Vanderbilt (for Baltimore); Mock 1.0: Alphonso Smith, CB, Wake Forest (for Baltimore)
With the extra fourth-rounder from Baltimore, the Falcons can work back up in the second or third round to get a safety (Louis Delmas or William Moore) or defensive tackle (Ziggy Hood, Fili Moala, Sen’Derrick Marks). Here, the best value on the board is an extra blocker for Michael Turner and the ground game and a security blanket for developing quarterback Matt Ryan.
27. Indianapolis Colts — Evander “Ziggy” Hood, DT, Missouri
Mock 4.0: Percy Harvin, WR, Florida; Mock 3.0: Harvin; Mock 2.0: Harvin; Mock 1.0: Harvin
If I’m making the call for Indy, I’ll dang sure have checked out all the knocks on Harvin: the alleged positive drug test, the injury issues, the character concerns. Assuming he passes, I’ll have all the information necessary if the opportunity to pull the trigger presents itself. But even if Harvin does pass and is still on the board, I’m leaning defensive tackle. I can play Dallas Clark in the slot and develop Roy Hall and/or Pierre Garcon; at least, I’m more likely to be able to do that than to win in the AFC with Keyunta Dawson and Eric Foster in the middle of my defense—especially if I can pair him with a load like Chris Baker or Terrance Knighton on Day Two.
28. Buffalo Bills (from Carolina Panthers via Philadelphia Eagles) — Michael Johnson, DE, Georgia Tech
Mock 4.0: Phil Loadholt, OT, Oklahoma (for Philadelphia); Mock 3.0: Knowshon Moreno, RB, Georgia (for Philadelphia); Mock 2.0: Will Beatty, OT, Connecticut (for Philadelphia); Mock 1.0: William Moore, S, Missouri (for Philadelphia)
With all the elite tackles off the board, unless I’m sold on William Beatty or think I can move Max Unger back outside there isn’t much value on the board at my biggest position of need. Johnson is viewed as one of the boom-or-bust guys of this draft, an amazing physical specimen who hasn’t yet fully delivered on his potential. This pick is a little bit of a bonus selection in that we turned an undrafted Jason Peters into a second first-rounder, so I’m more willing to step outside my conservative nature and see if Johnson can become the dominant pass rusher his flashes suggest.
29. New York Giants — Kenny Britt, WR, Rutgers
Mock 4.0: Britt; Mock 3.0: Britt; Mock 2.0: Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Maryland; Mock 1.0: Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Oklahoma State
The Giants wouldn’t sign off on any of the ransom packages for Braylon Edwards or Anquan Boldin, so I’m left to fill the Plaxico Burress void via the draft. Fortunately for me, I have my pick between Darrius Heyward-Bey and Britt. The former has the blazing speed but is a little more rough around the edges; the latter is a bit bigger and a bit better fit for this offense. The final determination, however, may be a pat-down on draft day to be sure neither is packing heat.
30. Tennessee Titans — Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Maryland
Mock 4.0: Vontae Davis, CB, Illinois; Mock 3.0: D.J. Moore, CB, Vanderbilt; Mock 2.0: Robert Ayers, DE, Tennessee; Mock 1.0: Fili Moala, DT, USC
The Titans took a burner whose 40 time made a splash at the Combine last year, and Chris Johnson seemed to work out okay. Heyward-Bey provides a speedy complement to Justin Gage and will be well-tutored by Mike Heimerdinger. It certainly doesn’t hurt that his speed should stretch the field a little bit and open things up for the running game.
31. Arizona Cardinals — Donald Brown, RB, Connecticut
Mock 4.0: Brown; Mock 3.0: LeSean McCoy, RB, Pittsburgh; Mock 2.0: Chris Wells, RB, Ohio State; Mock 1.0: McCoy
The Cardinals made it to the Super Bowl with a backfield triumvirate of Edgerrin James, J.J. Arrington, and Tim Hightower. Rather than cross my fingers and hope lightning strikes twice, I’m elated to take advantage of the deep backs in this class by adding Brown—who can complement the inside running of Hightower, replace Arrington in the passing game, and eventually handle the bulk of the workload. I could trade down to a team looking to climb back up and acquire Josh Freeman, hoping that Brown or LeSean McCoy would still be available, but unless I can get two picks in a range that will land one of those backs and a pass rusher like Larry English or Connor Barwin I’m just fine with Brown.
32. Pittsburgh Steelers — Max Unger, C, Oregon
Mock 4.0: Unger; Mock 3.0: Unger; Mock 2.0: Duke Robinson, OG, Oklahoma; Mock 1.0: Robinson
Eric Wood makes a good fit here as well, but the versatile Unger could be plugged into any trouble spot along the offensive line and help us out. The only real alternative to Unger, Wood, or Alex Mack would be a mauler like Duke Robinson or Phil Loadholt or getting younger along the defensive line; a look at what’s left on the draft board leads me to believe those issues could be addressed in later rounds with offensive linemen like Herman Johnson, Kraig Urbik, and T.J. Lang or defensive linemen such as Alex Magee, Everette Pedescleaux, and Sammie Lee Hill.