With the 2010 NFL Draft just hours away, TIMES NEWS sports writer and resident draft guru Jason Boris has once again checked in with his final installment of his annual mock draft.
This year's draft is loaded with uncertainties, and with the evaluation process all over the map, it has made it one of the most difficult drafts to predict in years. There are many trades that can happen, and just one of those can change the entire complexion and landscape of the first round (and likewise send this entire mock draft into a complete tail-spin).
Also, I will once again be representing the TIMES NEWS in The Huddle Report's (www.thehuddlereport.com ) annual mock draft contest. The contest is by invitation only and scores the mock drafts of the most reputable and widely-published draft resources in the entire country. These scores have become the standard by which draft publications, websites and media personnel are measured. Last year, my final mock draft ranked 6th out of 99 publications (ahead of Mel Kiper), and over the past three years, my mock drafts rank in fifth place for overall accuracy (ahead of Todd McShay). For those keeping score at home, mock drafts are scored under the following criteria: 1 point for each player placed in the first round and 2 points for players matched to the correct team that picks them.
I have been studying and researching the NFL Draft for about 20 years now, and I take predicting it very seriously, using my unique ability to understand and analyze what I see and read. However, the time for second-guessing is over….let's get on to the picks (before trades blow it all up):
1. ST. LOUIS RAMS -
Sam Bradford (QB, Oklahoma)
With Marc Bulger out of the picture, St. Louis doesn't have a legitimate quarterback on the roster. The Rams appear to be locked in on Bradford and all signs point to him being the number one overall pick. With starting defensive tackle Adam Carriker being traded to Washington, Ndamukong Suh's name is still in the mix, but there is no way the Rams can afford to pass on brining in a franchise signal caller.
Team Needs: QB, WR, OLB
2. DETROIT LIONS -
Ndamukong Suh (DT, Nebraska)
It's almost a lock that the Lions will take a defensive tackle with this pick; however, the only question is which one (Suh or Gerald McCoy). Jim Schwartz certainly knows the value of a stud defensive tackle after coaching Albert Haynesworth in Tennessee and Suh is not only the top player at his position, he's also the top player in this entire draft class.
Team Needs: CB, OT, DL
3. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS -
Gerald McCoy (DT, Oklahoma)
It's no secret that Tampa Bay wants to land one of the two stud defensive tackles with this pick and will be happy with whichever one falls to them. With Detroit selecting Suh, the Bucs will waste no time snatching up McCoy. I would be absolutely shocked if they went any other direction with this selection.
Team Needs: DT, DE, WR
4. WASHINGTON REDSKINS -
Russell Okung (OT, Oklahoma State)
With the trade for Donovan McNabb, the Redskins will focus on protecting their new quarterback with this pick, especially with the retirement of Chris Samuels. However, deciding between Okung and Trent Williams at this spot drove me crazy (spent way too much time last night just deciding on the tackle order at picks 4-5-6). Williams is the more agile lineman and a better fit for Mike Shanahan's zone-blocking scheme, but Okung is the top tackle in this draft for a reason and should be the pick.
Team Needs: OT, DL, S
5. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS -
Bryan Bulaga (OT, Iowa)
The Chiefs offensive line has too many holes for the organization to look any other direction and their best bet here would be to take the top offensive tackle available. There's lots of talk about Eric Berry going here, but GM Scott Pioli doesn't believe in drafting defensive backs this early in the first round. Plus, Pioli's close personal relationship with Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz helps Bulaga's cause here.
Team Needs: OT, S, ILB
6. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS -
Trent Williams (OT, Oklahoma)
With left tackle Walter Jones hinting at retirement, the Seahawks will definitely look to address their offensive line with one of their two first round picks. With Okung and Bulaga off the board, Williams is a no-brainer and is a great fit for Seattle's new zone-blocking scheme. If they decide to go another direction, Eric Berry and Derrick Morgan would be their targets.
Team Needs: OT, DE, S
7. CLEVELAND BROWNS -
Eric Berry (S, Tennessee)
Cleveland's secondary was absolutely atrocious last season and the unit lacks playmakers. The Browns upgraded at cornerback when they traded for Sheldon Brown and they will upgrade the safety position in a big way with Berry. The only reason Berry doesn't go higher is because teams can't afford to pay a safety the guaranteed money a top five pick would require.
Team Needs: QB, S, WR
8. OAKLAND RAIDERS -
Mike Iupati (OG, Idaho)
The Raiders are by far the hardest team to predict when doing a mock draft and we should always expect the unexpected. Offensive tackle Bruce Campbell seems to be the consensus pick here, but he just seems like too much of a reach, even for Al Davis. However, drafting a guard with a Top 10 pick would certainly bring shock value.
Team Needs: QB, OT, DT
9. BUFFALO BILLS -
Dan Williams (DT, Tennessee)
The Bills would probably prefer to take an offensive tackle here but the top three are already off the board. As Plan B, they must also develop their newly implemented 3-4 front and what better way to start than with Dan Williams as the anchor at nose tackle.
Team Needs: QB, OT, NT
10. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS -
Derrick Morgan (DE, Georgia Tech)
The Jaguars pass rush was non-existent last season, and even though they recently signed Aaron Kampman (30-years old coming off a torn ACL) as a free agent for a short-term fix, they could still use another pass rusher to address their long-term future. As a wild card, don't be surprised if the Jags gave serious thought to selecting C.J. Spiller or trading out of this pick altogether.
Team Needs: DE, S, OLB
11. DENVER BRONCOS (from Chicago) -
Rolando McClain (ILB, Alabama)
Three names come to mind for this pick: McClain, Dez Bryant and Maurkice Pouncey (as a dark horse). I actually had Pouncey here until the last minute, but when push came to shove, I switched to McClain who will step right in as Andra Davis's replacement at middle linebacker.
Team Needs: OL, WR, ILB
12. MIAMI DOLPHINS -
Demaryius Thomas (WR, Georgia Tech)
The Dolphins have many options sitting here at this pick, including a trade down which will enable them to recoup their second round pick that they lost. After trading for Brandon Marshall, you'd think the Dolphins would be set at wide receiver, but as Lee Corso would say, "Not so fast my friend." With Marshall and Thomas out wide, Chad Henne can be a Pro Bowl quarterback in no time.
Team Needs: OLB, S, NT
13. SAN FRANCISCO 49'ERS -
Joe Haden (CB, Florida)
San Francisco has quite a few areas that they need to address, but secondary is at or near the top of the list. Haden may even be gone by this point, but if he's still here, the 49'ers shouldn't think twice about selecting the top cornerback in this year's draft. However, if Jimmy Clausen is still on the board, the 49'ers just might come calling.
Team Needs: OT, CB, LB
14. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (from Denver) -
C.J. Spiller (RB, Clemson)
After taking a left tackle with their first pick, the Seahawks take their franchise running back in Spiller. Seattle may have other more pressing needs here, but Spiller may be just too tempting to pass up. He is an amazing athlete that can make an impact as a runner, receiver, and return man. In fact, he just might be Pete Carroll's second-coming of Reggie Bush.
Team Needs: OT, DE, S
15. NEW YORK GIANTS -
Jason Pierre-Paul (DE, South Florida)
The Giants will absolutely hit the jackpot if McClain were to fall to them, but that might not be the case here. Jason Pierre-Paul is definitely a project with only one year of college football, but the Giants have a proven track record of turning projects into Pro Bowlers (just ask Osi Umenyiora).
Team Needs: MLB, DT, OT
16. TENNESSEE TITANS -
Kyle Wilson (CB, Boise State)
Most people assume that Titans will draft a defensive end here, but cornerback would be a much more prudent selection. In order to compete in the AFC South (where they play the Colts and Titans twice a year), they need to improve their secondary and Wilson is flying up draft boards in recent weeks.
Team Needs: CB, DE, LB
17. SAN FRANCISCO 49'ERS (from Carolina) -Anthony Davis (OT, Rutgers)
The 49'ers need to land an offensive tackle with one of their two first round picks. Joe Staley is an anchor at left tackle but there's a hole on the right side. Davis is a powerful run blocker who can improve the San Francisco running game immediately and is the type of blocker they need for a downhill runner like Frank Gore.
Team Needs: OT, CB, LB
18. PITTSBURGH STEELERS - Maurkice Pouncey (C, Florida)
The Steelers are looking to address their interior offensive line, and Pouncey is a guy the Steelers covet. He can play center or guard and he will help the Steelers transition back to a smash-mouth style of football while creating huge holes for Rashard Mendenhall to run through.
Team Needs: OL, WR, CB
19. ATLANTA FALCONS -
Brandon Graham (DE, Michgan)
This is a two-horse race between Graham and linebacker Sean Weatherspoon. For me, the tipping point is that defensive ends have higher first round positional value than outside linebackers, which makes Graham a bit more attractive.
Team Needs: DE, OLB, C
20. HOUSTON TEXANS -
Ryan Matthews (RB, Fresno State)
Conventional wisdom says that Texans would pass on taking a running back in the first round because it doesn't fit Gary Kubiak's style. Expect that to change this year. The Texans are in "win now" mode and their main focus should be on finding a #1 full-time back to push them to their first playoff berth. Safety Earl Thomas might also be a consideration.
Team Needs: RB, CB, DT
21. CINCINNATI BENGALS -
Jermaine Gresham (TE, Oklahoma)
As a Bengals fan, I don't necessarily agree with this pick, but Carson Palmer needs a safety-valve and this pick makes too much sense not to happen. Tight end has been a problem area ever since Marvin Lewis arrived and yet he's never addressed it. If Cincinnati decides to go in another direction, safeties Earl Thomas and Taylor Mays would draw heavy consideration.
Team Needs: TE, S, OG
22. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS -
Jared Odrick (DE, Penn State)
Looking at draft history, the Patriots love to take players who fit their front seven and who can flourish in a 3-4 scheme. With that being said, this pick is likely to be either a defensive end or linebacker. Odrick would make the switch from tackle to end in the Pats 3-4 scheme and will provide young blood to an aging defensive line. On a side note, I was very close to penciling in Dez Bryant to the Patriots with this pick.
Team Needs: TE, OLB, WR
23. GREEN BAY PACKERS -
Sergio Kindle (OLB, Texas)
Many mock drafts have Green Bay matched up with an offensive lineman or a cornerback, but if Sergio Kindle is still on the board, the Packers should jump at the opportunity to sign Clay Mathews' tag team partner at outside linebacker. Kindle will take over for Aaron Kampman and provide Green Bay with the impart pass rusher they need.
Team Needs: OLB, CB, OT
24. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES -
Earl Thomas (S, Texas)
The Eagles need to address their secondary with their first round pick. Whether it's a cornerback or safety is up for debate. Andy Reid loves wheeling-and-dealing on draft day and with plenty of picks, I fully expect that to be the case again this year. They Eagles might not be able to get up far enough for Eric Berry, but there'll be plenty of teams in the 10-17 range looking to trade down.
Team Needs: DB, DE, OL
25. BALTIMORE RAVENS -
Devin McCourty (CB, Rutgers)
The Ravens secondary committed the most pass interference penalties in the NFL last season and changes will be made accordingly. The team loves Jared Odrick and possibly could draft a tight end here, but GM Ozzie Newsome always drafts the best player available and under these circumstances, it's McCourty.
Team Needs: CB, DL, TE
26. ARIZONA CARDINALS -
Sean Weatherspoon (OLB, Missouri)
The Cardinals brought in Joey Porter but that doesn't exactly solve their outside linebacker problems in their 3-4 scheme. Arizona must bring in more help after losing Karlos Dansby to free agency and Weatherspoon can pay instant dividends for the Cardinals defense. Jerry Hughes also deserved consideration here.
Team Needs: CB, OT, ILB
27. DALLAS COWBOYS -
Dez Bryant (WR, Oklahoma State)
The Cowboys first preference would be to draft an offensive tackle, but the top 4-5 will already be off the board by their pick. I doubt Bryant will be here at 27, so look for Jerry Jones to make a move up the draft board if Bryant falls into the late teens or early twenties to secure a stud running mate for Miles Austin. Safeties Earl Thomas and Taylor Mays are also in play for the Cowboys.
Team Needs: OT, S, WR
28. SAN DIEGO CHARGERS -
Kareem Jackson (CB, Alabama)
If Houston takes Ryan Matthews as expected, this could turn in to a difficult pick for San Diego. They desperately need a nose tackle, but I think it's a tad too early to take Terrence Cody (Alabama). With that being said, I think they go the "best player available" route and add depth to their secondary (and a replacement for Antonio Cromartie) with Jackson.
Team Needs: RB, NT, OT
29. NEW YORK JETS -
Taylor Mays (S, USC)
Now that the Jets have filled their need for a receiver with Santonio Holmes, they can turn their attention over to defense. Defensive end and outside linebacker could still be upgraded, but with the signing of Jason Taylor, those positions can now be put on the backburner. The Jets could benefit from secondary help and Taylor Mays is just the kind of player that Rex Ryan will fall in love with.
Team Needs: DE, OLB, S
30. MINNESOTA VIKINGS -
Jimmy Clausen (QB, Notre Dame)
The Vikings were hoping a cornerback would fall to them, but instead they hit the jackpot with Clausen. If for some reason Clausen slides this far (an Aaron Rodgers free fall), I'll look like a genius, but it's probably more likely that he will be playing next season somewhere on the west coast (Oakland, Seattle, San Francisco). Clausen would be a nice fit as the heir apparent to Brett Favre and don't rule out Tim Tebow here either.
Team Needs: CB, QB, OL
31. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS -
Rodger Saffold (OT, Indiana)
Bill Polian publicly criticized the offensive line following their Super Bowl loss, which leads me to believe that there's a strong likelihood that he addresses that area with this pick. USC tackle Charles Brown could enter the mix here, but the Colts are rumored to be enamored with Saffold.
Team Needs: OT, CB, DT
32. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS -
Jerry Hughes (OLB, TCU)
It seems as if the Saints have been rumored to be looking for an upgrade at outside linebacker for years, and if Jerry Hughes somehow fell this far, it would be wise for New Orleans to snatch him up. The Saints just lost Scott Fujita to free agency, which may create even more urgency to seek out an outside backer.
Team Needs: OLB, DL, S