I know there are mock drafts littering the Internet from so-called experts and then from douches like me, who pretend to know team’s intentions.
But I’m continuing a tradition I started back in 1995. It was more of a challenge to myself that I could pick the selections better than the local newspaper guy (and I always did).
So, my friends annually ask me to re-create that magic and make my picks. So I do it.
1. Detroit – QB Matthew Stafford (Georgia). When all you have is a stud wide receiver (see Johnson, Calvin), start with a quarterback. Stafford has the tools, does he have the accuracy? Lions fans are cringing already with thoughts of Alex Smith, Tim Couch and Joey Harrington.
2. St. Louis – OT Jason Smith (Baylor). Orlando Pace is gone. Alex Barron is awful. Truth be told, I never saw Smith play in college. He plays for Baylor. Besides Angela from “The Office” and Trey Wingo, who watches Baylor games? But he’s a left tackle, and a potential franchise one. It’s worked for the Rams in the past.
3. Kansas City – LB Aaron Curry (Wake Forest). I actually think the Chiefs could trade out of this pick and allow someone to overpay for a chance at Mark Sanchez. But we’ll keep them here for now and pick a young cornerstone for their defense. Curry will learn from veterans Zach Thomas and Mike Vrabel and paired with Derrick Johnson will form a viable linebacking corps.
4. Seattle – OT Eugene Monroe (Virginia). The Seahawks can really go anywhere with this pick. Do they take Sanchez? How about Michael Crabtree? Walter Jones is on the way out and there might not be a replacement like Monroe available for quite some time. It’s a safe, smart pick.
5. Cleveland – DE Brian Orakpo (Texas). Trading Braylon Edwards is just a stupid idea. OK, so he had a bad season. You’re whole team did. Take a deep breath. You’ve already traded Kellen Winslow. Ease up there Cleveland. Crabtree would be nice, but the Browns suck at rushing the passer and Orakpo is the best pass rusher in the draft. Should be a no-brainer.
6. Cincinnati – OT Andre Smith (Alabama). Stacy Andrews is gone and Smith is a perfect replacement. A lot has been said about Smith’s character, but a kid who was suspended for speaking to an agent and skipped out early at the Combine shouldn’t scare a franchise littered with players guilty of far more. He’s a franchise left tackle to protect the franchise, Carson Palmer.
7. Oakland – WR Michael Crabtree (Texas Tech). I’m not buying all this Raiders’ love for Jeremy Maclin. Crabtree has proven what he can do on film. He’s a star. Al Davis loves stars. He covets them. Giving JaMarcus Russell a weapon like this is of the utmost importance for Oakland. But getting inside the mind of Al Davis can be a harrowing journey.
8. Washington (trade with Jacksonville) – QB Mark Sanchez (USC). Last year, it was the Jaguars trading up to reach on Derrick Harvey. Now, they’re going in the other direction and cashing in on Daniel Snyder’s love affair with Sanchez. The ‘Skins soured on Jason Campbell quickly and they seem convinced Sanchez is the franchise quarterback Campbell isn’t.
9. Green Bay – DT B.J. Raji (Boston College). If Raji falls to No. 9, the Packers are doing flips in the War Room. False reports about a failed drug test hurt his stock, but he’s like no other player in the draft, and he’s exactly what the Packers need now that they’re going to a 3-4 defensive scheme. If he’s there, the pick won’t take longer than three minutes.
10. San Francisco – OT Michael Oher (Mississippi). Mike Singletary wants to run the ball down your throat. And he needs maulers to do that. The subject of “The Blind Side,” Oher is just that – a mauler. The tackles are flying off the board and Oher is among the top tier. Singletary is the strong, guiding force that Oher needs to get the best out of him.
11. Buffalo – LB Brian Cushing (USC). Put him with Paul Posluszny and your linebacking corps is starting to take shape. A pass rusher like FSU’s Everette Brown or Tennessee’s Robert Ayers is possible, but Cushing is a safe pick.
12. Denver – DE Tyson Jackson (LSU). The Broncos need pass rushers and run stoppers. Their hope is that Jackson can be both.
13. Jacksonville (trade with Washington) – WR Jeremy Maclin (Missouri). Sure they just signed Torry Holt, but Holt isn’t getting any younger and don’t most older folks move to Florida anyways? Maclin is a big play threat and can learn the tricks of the trade from Holt.
14. New Orleans – CB Malcolm Jenkins (Ohio State). The Saints can score points with the best of the league. Problem is, they need every single one of those points and sometimes, that’s not even enough. Their pass defense is criminal and Jenkins is the top rated defensive back in the draft. A no-brainer.
15. Houston – LB Clay Matthews (USC). His uncle, Bruce, played for the Houston Oilers for ever. And the Texans actually just hired Bruce. His nephew is an impressive athlete and will be a perfect compliment to DeMeco Ryans, who is considered more cerebral than athletic. Matthews can get to the passer quickly or hang back in coverage. A solid pick here by the Texans as they continue to build a playoff contender.
16. San Diego – DE Robert Ayers (Tennessee). In San Diego, it’s all about getting to the passer and the Chargers lost Igor Olshansky. Ayers is a hot rising prospect and the Chargers would do well to make him their pick. This pick could also be a target for teams looking to trade up to snag Chris Wells or Knoshown Moreno. San Diego would certainly be willing to trade down to later in the first round while adding a second round pick since they currently don’t have one.
17. New York Jets – RB Chris Wells (Ohio State). Thomas Jones wants more money, and so will Leon Washington next summer. Wells did himself a world of good at Ohio State’s Pro Day, and is a big back that will remind fans of Curtis Martin – if he can stay healthy.
18. Denver (from Chicago) – DE Everette Brown (Florida State). Sure the Broncos took Jackson with their first pick, that doesn’t mean they won’t grab another pass rusher. Jackson and Brown are both versatile enough to move around on the line and the Broncos have to improve their front seven.
19. Tampa Bay – DE Michael Johnson (Georgia Tech). A poor man’s Julius Peppers, Johnson is a unique athlete and reminds some scouts of Jason Taylor. The Buccaneers could use a Jason Taylor. Wait a minute, isn’t Jason Taylor a free agent…
20. Detroit – DT Peria Jerry (Mississippi). While the Lions can’t draft for dick usually, they are pretty proficient when it comes to drafting defensive linemen. Shaun Rogers and Cory Redding were solid picks and Jerry would give Lions coach Jim Schwartz a run stuffer like the one he enjoyed in Tennessee with Albert Haynesworth.
21. Philadelphia – RB Knowshon Moreno (Georgia). Brian Westbook is great and all, but he’s bound to get nicked up and he needs someone to take some of the load off him. Again Brian Westbrook, you’re great. Moreno is a potentially special back and Sal Paolantonio tells me it’s a lock. And ESPN is never wrong.
22. Minnesota – CB Vontae Davis (Illinois). The second-best corner in the draft, Vernon’s little brother doesn’t mind sticking his nose in the action as a hitter and that exactly what the Vikings look for in corners (see Winfield, Antoine).
23. New England – LB Larry English (Northern Illinois). Rosevelt Colvin and Mike Vrabel are gone. English is a pass rush extraordinaire and is perfectly suited for the 3-4 scheme. With Adailus Thomas and last year’s first round pick Jerod Mayo, the Pats are quickly rebuilding their linebacking corps.
24. Atlanta - DE Aaron Maybin (Penn State). The acquisition of Tony Gonzalez means Oklahoma State’s Brandon Pettigrew is surplus to requirements for the Falcons. Instead, Atlanta will go with the best pass rusher on the board, though an offensive tackle like Arizona’s Eben Britten isn’t out of the question.
25. Miami – WR Hakeem Nicks (North Carolina). The Dolphins already have their flier in Ted Ginn Jr., so the sure-handed, big-bodied Nicks is preferred to Maryland’s burner Darrius Heyward-Bey. Nicks is the more polished of the two anyways, and is more likely to contribute right away. When the Dolphins worked out Hicks in North Carolina, they took Chad Pennington with them.
26. Baltimore – WR Darrius Heyward-Bey (Maryland). They’ve got their young quarterback, now they need to get him consistent weapons. Derrick Mason isn’t a spring chicken. Todd Heap can’t stay healthy and Michael Clayton is hit and miss. Heyward-Bey is an absolute jet and with Flacco’s big arm, he can stretch the field for the rest of the Ravens.
27. Indianapolis – LB Rey Maualuga (USC). Bill Polian usually gets this right. And I’m sure he’s tired of having teams run roughshod over his defenses. The Colts usually prefer to wait in the later rounds for linebackers and Missouri defensive tackle Ziggy Hood would be appealing here. But last year’s leading tackler Freddy Keiaho wasn’t re-signed and Gary Brackett is coming back from injury. Ohio State’s James Laurinaitis is an option as well.
28. Buffalo – OT Eben Britten (Arizona). Jason Peters was traded to Philadelphia, so the Bills need to plug a hole. Britten is the highest rated tackle left, but UConn’s Wiliam Beatty or Oklahoma’s Phil Loadholt could be options. All about personal preference.
29. New York Giants – WR Brian Robiskie (Ohio State). Plax is gone and Braylon isn’t coming. The Giants need a wide receiver. Former first round pick Steve Smith has limitations and Eli needs weapons. Robiskie gets the nod over Rutgers’ Kenny Britt because he’s more pro ready and a polished route runner.
30. Tennessee – CB Alphonso Smith (Wake Forest). In a conference with Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, the Titans need guys who can cover. Smith is the third-rated corner in the draft and would form a nice tandem with Cortland Finnegan.
31. Arizona – RB Donald Brown (UConn). Tim Hightower showed his limitations despite an early impact and Edgerrin James’ role in the desert remains a mystery. Some think Brown is the best running back in the draft. Mike Mayock has a raging hard-on for this guy.
32. Pittsburgh – OT Phil Loadholt (Oklahoma) – Marvel Smith is off to San Francisco and the Steelers could use another big body, which Loadholt has (6-foot-8, 330-lbs.).