Now that free agency is done - at least for the most part - it's a good time to head back to the Land of Mock Drafts and see how teams might fill their needs after a surprisingly busy player acquisition period. As always, the idea is to run these mocks as one would a real draft; with a mixture of need picks and "best-player-available" mantras, with the occasional shocker mixed in for good measure. Here are picks 1-16; the second half of the first round will be along presently.
1. St. Louis Rams: QB Sam Bradford, Oklahoma -- As tempting as it might be for St. Louis to trade for Michael Vick(notes) or Kevin Kolb(notes) and go defensive tackle with the first overall pick, Vick really isn't the franchise quarterback a rebuilding team needs, and any team dealing with the Eagles on Kolb have to adjust to the idea that his current team is probably overvaluing him from a trade standpoint. Rams GM Billy Devaney has kept in close contact with Tom Condon, Bradford's agent, and everything points to a completely healthy Bradford throwing at his private workout on March 29. Bradford rescheduled that workout from March 25 so that the owner's meetings wouldn't prevent more teams from seeing him, but if the Rams don't solve their quarterback problems elsewhere, there's only one team Bradford needs to concern himself with.
2. Detroit Lions: OT Russell Okung, Oklahoma State -- Everyone has the Lions taking the best defensive tackle available by default, but there are more pressing concerns. In 2009, Detroit ranked 29th in Football Outsiders' Adjusted Line Yards metric, and 22nd in Adjusted Sack Rate. They've invested the gross national product of a mid-sized country in Matthew Stafford(notes), so keeping Stafford upright could be priority one. In perhaps the deepest draft for defensive tackles ever, the Lions can solidify their front four further down the line.
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: DT Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska -- With Bradford and Okung taking up the first and second slots, the Bucs are in the enviable position of having circumstance meet their more pressing need. Tampa Bay gave up almost five yards per carry against opposing running backs, and amassed a middling 28 sacks last season. In Suh, they'll get the most dynamic pass-rusher in the draft, regardless of position, and a terrifying line-of-scrimmage threat under any circumstances.
4. Washington Redskins: DT Gerald McCoy, Oklahoma -- The 2010 season will be "put up or shut up" for Jason Campbell(notes), but he has a decided advantage this time. With all the coaches he's had to adjust to, Campbell has never had someone who fits his skill set like Mike Shanahan. The Okung pick at #2 throws the Skins for a loop, as they may have taken him here, so it's off to the "Best Player Available" station. At 6-foot-4 and 295 pounds, McCoy can play different roles in Washington's new 3-4 -- he's probably best as the pointman inside in a 4-3, but with his ridiculous first step, he could succeed as a 3-4 end, and we don't know how many hybrid fronts Washington will run.
5. Kansas City Chiefs: OT Bryan Bulaga, Iowa -- Coached by renowned line guru Kirk Ferentz at Iowa, Bulaga's connection pays off here with Ferentz's longtime association with Chiefs GM Scott Pioli. The Chiefs need a lot of things, but line reinforcements are key. Bulaga is tough, technically sound, and more people are coming around to the notion that he wouldn't be a real reach in the top five. His selection would allow the Chiefs to move Branden Albert(notes) inside or to right tackle.
6. Seattle Seahawks: S Eric Berry, Tennessee -- The Seahawks have offensive needs everywhere, but I doubt that Pete Carroll, long a defensive mastermind with a deep understanding of the importance of safeties in his defensive schemes, would hesitate for a second to take Berry. The recent release of veteran Deon Grant(notes) points the way to a younger, faster defense. Berry, with his unmatched combination of cover skills and tackling ability in this draft, will give the Seahawks a presence at the safety position they haven't had since the glory days of Kenny Easley.
7. Cleveland Browns: CB Joe Haden, Florida -- Haden "redeemed" himself and his slow Combine 40 times at Florida's pro day, but anyone who kept watching tape of Haden throughout all the discussion knows that he played faster than those bad times in Indianapolis. The Browns threw $7 million at Jake Delhomme(notes) for whatever reason, so they won't mind spending more than that on the best cover corner in this year's draft.
8. Oakland Raiders: OT Trent Williams, Oklahoma -- More and more, you'll see Williams' name rising up the boards as teams acknowledge his toughness, determination and athleticism. The switch from right to left tackle in 2009, and his status as the lone returning offensive lineman from the 2008 squad will have people looking more at how he improved through the 2009 season, and the fact that he returned to complete his education.
9. Buffalo Bills: QB Jimmy Clausen, Notre Dame -- While Williams' rise should be no surprise, I start to wonder if Clausen will fall on draft day. Yes, it helps his case that he was the beneficiary of a pro-style offense at Notre Dame, but have we seen his ceiling? How much growth potential does he have? Are the questions about his character and leadership ability accurate? Is he really $20 million better than Colt McCoy? We have him at #9 now, but if there's one guy who could take an Aaron Rodgers(notes)-style tumble, it might be Clausen.
10. Jacksonville Jaguars: S/CB Earl Thomas, Texas -- Safety Reggie Nelson's(notes) tenure in Jacksonville has been dramatic: equal parts comedy and tragedy on the field. The Jags have shored up their pass rush with Aaron Kampman(notes); now they take their pass coverage to the next level with the versatile Thomas, who projects as a very good cornerback or an outstanding safety at the next level.
11. Denver Broncos (from CHI): WR Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State -- No matter what he Broncos do with Brandon Marshall(notes), whoever plays quarterback for this team in 2010 is going to need more big, complementary targets. Bryant doesn't have Marshall's downfield speed, but his ability to get vertical in short spaces makes him a great weapon for Brady Quinn(notes) or Kyle Orton(notes) - and neither one of those guys is going to win any distance-throwing events.
12. Miami Dolphins: DT Dan Williams, Tennessee -- We keep putting Williams in Miami's front seven, but unless the Broncos decide that they want the big nose tackle and the 'Fins get Dez Bryant to accelerate their passing game, Bill Parcells values the franchise two-gap tackle far too much for this pick to go anywhere else if Williams is still on the board.
13. San Francisco 49ers: OT Anthony Davis(notes), Rutgers -- It's a strange time in San Francisco. With Scot McCloughan on his way out as the 49ers GM, and team president Jed York possibly positioning himself as the team's new "football czar", all bets are off as to who they might take with their two first-round picks. One thing we do know is that the Niners' offensive line is the one thing that could keep them from winning the NFC West in 2010, and while Davis has question marks, he'd be an improvement for a front five in desperate need.
14. Seattle Seahawks (from DEN): RB C.J. Spiller, Clemson -- Bad news for the Seahawks: The run on offensive linemen went just before their 14th overall pick, and Eric Berry was too good to pass up at six. So, their horribly depleted line still needs massive help. Good news for the Seahawks: Spiller is the kind of playmaker Seattle's offense has been lacking since Shaun Alexander(notes) had good hops, and Spiller might be able to gain a few yards despite the guys blocking for him in the short term.
15. New York Giants: LB Rolando McClain, Alabama -- McClain will be going from Nick Saban's 3-4 to the prototypical 4-3 run by the G-men, but as a downhill tackler, he transcends schematic issues. A total film rat who never missed a game at 'Bama. McClain brings the kind of toughness Tom Coughlin loves - and hasn't seen enough of lately.
16. Tennessee Titans: DE Derrick Morgan, Georgia Tech -- With Kyle Vanden Bosch(notes) gone to Detroit, the Titans could go one of two ways here. They could take Jason Pierre-Paul, the excellent edge rusher from South Florida, or go with a more well-rounded end like Morgan. Jeff Fisher likes ends who can get to backs in space as well as go after quarterbacks, which breaks the tie in Morgan's favor.
- Sam Bradford