Here it is, the much ballyhooed annual NFL mock draft brought to you by TheBaker. OK, so its not very ballyhooed. But I usually do pretty well. And I tend to get a little overly creative. But hey, that’s the fun of it. I’ve got two major trades in the first round with Dallas moving up for a safety and somebody getting another late first rounder to snare Jimmy Clausen.
1. St. Louis – Sam Bradford (QB), Oklahoma
No one wants to draft the next Tim Couch or David Carr, but the Rams really don’t have a choice here. They have to come out of this draft with a starting quarterback. St. Louis finally cut Marc Bulger loose and has A.J. Feeley currently atop the depth chart. Now, the Rams could pull a shock and draft Ndamukong Suh and then take Colt McCoy at the beginning of the second round and hedge their bets, but Bradford could be a Matt Ryan clone, and that’s a chance the Rams can’t take.
2. Detroit - Ndamukong Suh (DT), Nebraska
Dude’s a beast. Matthew Stafford is face of the franchise, Suh will be the heart.
3. Tampa Bay – Gerald McCoy (DT), Oklahoma
With Suh gone, the decision is easy.
4. Washington - Trent Williams (OT), Oklahoma
They say Williams is the better fit for Mike Shanahan’s blocking system than Russell Okung, so he’s the pick here. Personally, I’d take C.J. Spiller. How many more carries does Clinton Portis have in him? And is Larry Johnson really the answer? However improving the offensive line is a must.
5. Kansas City – Rolando McClain (LB), Alabama
Surprised? Hey, besides the night before last year’s draft, who had them taking Tyson Jackson at No. 3? No one. McClain is exactly what the Chiefs need in the middle of their 3-4 scheme. He’ll be a quarterback of the defense. Think fellow Alabama linebacker DeMeco Ryans, but with the measurements all the scouts drool over.
6. Seattle – Russell Okung (OT), Oklahoma State
Franchise left tackle Walter Jones is gone and incumbent tackles Sean Locklear and Ray Willis are both better suited to play right tackle (or perhaps even guard). With Kansas City going McClain, that ensures the Seahawks a shot at one of the top two offensive tackles in the draft. Okung could go No. 4 to Washington and then Williams falls to Seattle at No. 6. Either way, Pete Carroll takes the top tackle here and then focuses elsewhere with No. 14.
7. Cleveland – Eric Berry (S),Tennessee
Improving their secondary is a must, and after acquiring Sheldon Brown from Philadelphia, the Browns continue the secondary makeover with Berry. Adding an Ed Reed-like playmaker in Berry is never a bad thing.
8. Oakland – Mike Iupati (G), Idaho
If you poll most NFL scouts, they’ll tell you the most complete offensive lineman in this draft isn’t a tackle. It’s Idaho guard Mike Iupati. But no one in their right mind takes a guard in the top-10. Luckily for Iupati (and more importantly his agent), Al Davis is definitely not of sound mind. Forget Darrius Heyward-Bey last year, this is the guy that took a kicker at No. 17 in 2000! Since 1997, only 11 guards have been drafted in the first round, as opposed to 43 offensive tackles. But during that stretch in which most teams shied away from the interior line in Round 1, Al Davis has taken two guards in the opening round (Matt Stinchcomb, No. 15 in 1999 and Mo Collins, No. 23 in 1998). If Iupati goes No. 8, he’d be the first interior lineman drafted in the top-10 since Chris Naeole went 10th to New Orleans.
9. Buffalo – Dan Williams (DT), Tennessee
The Bills can go anywhere with this pick. Chan Gailey needs receivers, someone to throw to those receivers and someone to block for the person that is throwing those passes. But Buffalo also needs a big run-stuffer in the middle to help keep blockers off Buffalo’s linebackers. Williams is a class below Suh and McCoy, but not by much. Offensive tackles Bryan Bulaga (Iowa) and Anthony Davis (Rutgers) are possibilities, but Buffalo goes for instant impact.
10. Jacksonville – C.J. Spiller (RB), Clemson
Insert cliche, but true line about how the NFL is a two-back league. Especially when your first back is a miniature bowling ball. Spiller is too good not to be taken in the top-10.
11. Denver - Brandon Graham (DE), Michigan
Imagine Elvis Dumervil on one side and Graham on the other. That’s some serious speed off the edges, certainly enough to make opposing quarterbacks uneasy. Taking Dez Bryant is an option, but do does Josh McDaniels really take an immature wide receiver after just getting rid of one? Florida center Maurkice Pouncey is also in play.
12. Miami – Jerry Hughes (LB/DE), TCU
Graham probably would have been the preferred choice, but with him off to Denver, Miami takes Hughes earlier than most would have that. Hughes is a pass-rushing force and is exactly what the Fins need. Bill Parcells will think he’s got the next DeMarcus Ware at best, Anthony Spencer at worst.
13. (trade from San Francisco) Dallas – Earl Thomas (S), Texas
I hate predicting trades, but you just know Jerry Jones can’t sit there all night during prime time and watch his Cowboys not pick until 11:30 a.m. EST. Plus, the Cowboys desperately need safety help and word is they love Thomas. Alan Ball and Gerald Sensabaugh are listed as the starters at safety. That’s not good.
14. Seattle – Derrick Morgan (DE), Georgia Tech
Perhaps Carroll can get the most out of former first rounder Lawrence Jackson (a charge of Carroll’s at USC), but even after Jackson, the depth chart at defensive end is pretty gross. There’s Chris Clemons and three dudes I’ve never heard of (Nick Reed, Robert Henderson and some Canadian Football League standout Rickey Foley). Morgan is considered the best prototypical defensive end in the draft with the others more of a hybrid. Patrick Kerney’s retirement just reinforced the position’s need.
15. New York Giants – Jason Pierre-Paul (DE), USF
Giants fans are praying Rolando McClain falls to them at No. 15, but don’t count on it. Even if the Chiefs don’t snag him surprisingly at No. 5, Denver looms at No. 11. The Giants need a middle linebacker badly, but could possibly wait on South Carolina’s Eric Norwood in the second round. Depth on the defensive line is always welcomed, and with super-sensitive Osi Umenyiora continuously crying over whether or not he’s a starter, the Giants should take a chance on the athletic Pierre-Paul and send Umenyiora packing.
16. Tennessee – Kyle Wilson (CB), Boise State
It’s neck and neck between Wilson and Joe Haden as to which one will be the first corner taken. It’s all personal preference. Wilson’s stock has been soaring since the end of the season after a stellar Senior Bowl week and solid workouts and interviews. He’s more of a physical, tackling corner than Haden and fits Tennessee’s mold more than Haden.
17. San Francisco – Joe Haden (CB), Florida
Probably the more preferred of the two corners anyways for San Francisco. Jimmy Clausen would be tempting, but at No. 17 the 49ers can’t pass on the top corner on their board. Nate Clements hasn’t lived up to his price tag and Shawntae Spencer needs some help.
18. Pittsburgh – Maurkice Pouncey (C/G), Florida
The Steelers need to add some depth on the offensive line and Pouncey can play guard if needed and then slide over to center when Steelers veteran center Justin Hartwig pushes off. If one of the top corners (Haden or Wilson) fall to them, that might entice Pittsburgh, but word out of Steel Town is that Pouncey is the pick.
19. Atlanta – Sean Weatherspoon (LB), Missouri
Atlanta might be tempted to snag local product WR Demaryius Thomas from Georgia Tech, but linebacker is Atlanta’s top priority and there will be plenty of good receivers available in Round 2.
20. Houston – Ryan Mathews (RB), Fresno State
It will probably come down to Taylor Mays and Mathews. Steve Slaton hasn’t proven he can be an every down consistent back in the league, and adding Mathews’ breakaway ability will only make an already explosive Texans’ offense even more dynamic.
21. Cincinnati – Dez Bryant (WR), Oklahoma State
The Bengals have needs on the defensive and offensive lines, have no tight ends and need help at safety. But at No. 21 in the draft, you can’t let a talent like Bryant slip by. Sure he’s got maturity issues, but has that ever stopped Cincinnati before? Marvin Lewis wants more weapons and after signing Antonio Bryant in the offseason and adding Bryant in the draft, the Lewis’ offensive cache should be loaded. If Cincy can resist the temptation then Taylor Mays could join college teammate Rey Malauga in stripes.
22. New England – Jermaine Gresham (TE), Oklahoma
Ben Watson is gone. Ben Coates is long gone. It’s been about that long since the Patriots had a stud tight end, and Jermaine Gresham is a stud tight end. There are bound to be concerns a year removed from a major injury, but Tom Brady needs more targets, and Gresham could become an absolute matchup nightmare.
23. Green Bay – Bryan Bulaga (OT), Iowa
Bulaga has routinely gone in the top-10 in almost every mock draft, but don’t be surprised if the Iowa tackle slips into the 20s. If he falls to Green Bay here, the Packers will race the pick up to the commissioner. They need a replacement for Chad Clifton and Alan Barbre is definitely not the answer.
24. (trade with Philadelphia) Cleveland - Jimmy Clausen (QB), Notre Dame
Is it deja vu? The Browns trading back into the first round to get a Notre Dame quarterback. I know what you’re thinking – retarded. But someone is bound to trade up for the plunging Clausen if San Francisco doesn’t take him. Washington doesn’t have the ammunition, unless they include Albert Haynesworth. Mike Holmgren needs a young quarterback and Clausen could thrive under his tutelage. Browns fans will light couches on fire.
25. Baltimore – Jared Odrick (DT), Penn State
Baltimore lost Justin Bannan and Dwan Edwards on the defensive line and need some fresh bodies to add to the mix. Odrick is a versatile, high-motor lineman that usually thrives in the Baltimore system. UCLA DT Brian Price is also an option here.
26. Arizona – Sergio Kindle (LB), Texas
Joey Porter and Clark Haggans are both 33 and Karlos Dansby bolted for Miami. The Cards need help desperately at linebacker. Enter Kindle. A pass-rushing outside linebacker, Kindle could be a terror off the edge and learn under the tutelage of Porter. Missouri’s Sean Weatherspoon and TCU’s Daryl Washington are also possibilities.
27. (trade from Dallas) San Francisco – Anthony Davis (OT), Rutgers
A top-10 talent with work ethic concerns, if Davis falls to tackle 49ers, the draft room will be delighted. Former first rounder Joe Staley should bounce back from injury, but Barry Sims is 35-years old. Already with Haden in tow and extra picks from Dallas in my potential trade, the 49ers would have to be considered the big first round winners.
28. San Diego - Linval Joseph (DT), East Carolina
The 6-foot-5, 328-lbs., Joseph is shooting up draft charts and with the loss of huge land mass Jamal Williams, the Chargers are in desperate need of a space eater like Joseph. Alabama’s Terrence Cody is more celebrated, but Cody’s weight concerns might scare off some teams, including the Chargers.
29. New York Jets – Everson Griffen (DE), USC
Rex Ryan can never have enough pass rushers.
30. Minnesota - Taylor Mays (S), USC
I had Virginia CB Chris Cook going here, but then realized that nobody had taken Taylor Mays yet. Pairing with Tyrell Johnson, the Vikings could field one of the league’s better young safety combos. Tim Tebow is an interesting option as well and could definitely benefit from a year under Brett Favre’s wing, who we all know will be back next year.
31. Indianapolis – Tyson Alualu (DE), California
Just like Al Davis, no one really knows what Bill Polian is going to do on draft day. The difference between Polian and Davis, is that Polian actually has a winning formula. Offensive line is a position of concern for the Colts, especially since former high draft pick Tony Ugoh isn’t really panning out. But the Colts have some needs on the defensive front as well, and Alualu is a versatile lineman that can play either end or tackle, and help fill the void left by Raheem Brock’s departure.
32. New Orleans – Daryl Washington (LB), TCU
With the signing of former Chicago DE Alex Brown, linebacker has moved to the top of New Orleans’ draft priorities. The serviceable Scott Fujita is gone leaving JoLonn Dunbar atop the depth chart at strong-side linebacker. Yikes. The Saints are hoping Weatherspoon falls past Atlanta, but if not, they’ll take the best linebacker available, and that’s Washington.