This year's NFL draft is three days away, yet we are no closer to knowing the name of the top overall pick. Initial numbers and outlines for a possible contract have been sent out to the agents for quarterbacks JaMarcus Russell and Brady Quinn, and wide receiver Calvin Johnson. What should we read into this, if anything?
The top overall pick could come down to the total value of the contract offers made and how each of those agents initially responds. A thought would be that the wide receiver would come cheaper than a quarterback. However, the deals being offered to Russell and Quinn are not likely to be identical as it is believed the Raiders likely would bring Russell along slowly and therefore try to backload his contract. Quinn, more likely to play immediately, would have more upfront money or incentives and could void out the back year of the deal if he experiences early success. In essence, it may be easier for the Raiders to get a better deal done with Johnson or Quinn before the draft, but if they want Russell then they will be paying full market value for the No. 1 overall choice with in excess of $25 million being guaranteed.
OK, enough of the contract talk! Here's the final mock draft for 2007.
1. Oakland Raiders – LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell. The Raiders have plenty of options, but this will come down to picking a quarterback or wide receiver. Johnson has the highest grade, Russell has the strongest arm and Quinn is the best fit for the new coaching staff's scheme. With the Browns sitting at No. 3, that could shake things up in any possible deal between the Buccaneers and Raiders. The only real chance for a trade for No. 1 is if the Bucs were to pull the Lions into the mix and have them move down to No. 4. That would allow the Raiders to secure the quarterback at No. 2 and Johnson to land in Tampa Bay. At the end of the day, my gut feeling here is that if the Raiders keep the pick, it will be Russell. But if a deal can be reached, they very well could end up with Quinn a few picks later.
2. Detroit Lions – Clemson defensive end Gaines Adams. There has also been some speculation that the Lions would love to deal down, but that would only be the case if Calvin Johnson is still on the board. Ultimately, look for the Lions to land Adams with their choice at either No. 2 or with a deal down with the Bucs to No. 4.
3. Cleveland Browns – Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn. The Browns would now be sitting pretty if the draft plays out this way or if the Raiders and Bucs make a deal. They might have the choice of picking either a possible franchise quarterback or running back. If JaMarcus Russell is still on the board, I believe he is their top choice.
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Georgia Tech wide receiver Calvin Johnson. The Bucs have done a great job of publicizing scenarios for themselves, but they may have to decide exactly how much they are willing to give up to obtain the rights to Johnson. They have four draft choices in the first three rounds, so they are equipped to move up if necessary. The vibe here is that they can maneuver past most teams to acquire Johnson, but they do not want to see a last-minute spending spree by someone like Atlanta and get caught out of the action by Saturday morning.
5. Arizona Cardinals – Wisconsin offensive tackle Joe Thomas. Several teams are likely to try dealing up for this pick based on who comes off the board in the top three choices. Among those franchises are Denver or Chicago, which could eye moving up to land a starting left tackle. Overall, the Cardinals are in a very good place here and they could go off the board to pick a guy like LaRon Landry, Amobi Okoye or even Jamaal Anderson.
6. Washington Redskins – LSU safety LaRon Landry. The addition of Landry would give them an instant playmaker in the middle of the field to pair with All-Pro safety Sean Taylor. Other options would be to continue pursuing trade offers for linebacker Lance Briggs or even pick up the phone to see if New England would package cornerback Asante Samuel and one of their two first-round picks to move up to this point in the draft.
7. Minnesota Vikings – Oklahoma running back Adrian Peterson. I took considerable heat for this pick initially, given the production of tailback Chester Taylor last season. However, others have gotten on the bandwagon as drafting Peterson could really aid in the development of the team’s new signal caller and passing game as a whole.
8. Atlanta Falcons – Penn State offensive tackle Levi Brown. This will be a tough choice for them. They also have a pair of second-round choices, which means they could take the best available defensive player on their board and then try to use a combo of their extra picks to deal back into the mid-to-late portion of the first round for Central Michigan offensive tackle Joe Staley.
9. Miami Dolphins – Arkansas defensive lineman Jamaal Anderson. The Dolphins have a group of needs, but Anderson could help protect the team’s aging defenders such as Jason Taylor, Joey Porter and Zach Thomas. If Anderson were to slide down further, Denver could seek to move up for him. Also, if Joe Thomas and Levi Brown are both off the board, the Dolphins could slide back 4-6 picks and then go after Joe Staley.
10. Houston Texans – Louisville defensive tackle Amobi Okoye. Okoye would fit well with the franchise's top two picks from last year – defensive end Mario Williams and middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans. However, they could also seek a trade down for cornerbacks Leon Hall or Darrelle Revis.
11. San Francisco 49ers – Michigan defensive tackle Alan Branch. The 49ers need a front-line playmaker in order to make the full-time switch to a 3-4 scheme and they believe Branch provides them with the best interior nose tackle for that scheme. However, if the 49ers feel there will be a run on linebackers before they can get their hands on one, they might take Patrick Willis and attempt to make a deal back up to grab a guy such as Tennessee’s Justin Harrell. They have also shown a lot of interest in Nebraska’s Adam Carriker throughout this process.
12. Buffalo Bills – Penn State linebacker Paul Pozluszny. Pozluszny, who played in a scheme last season similar to that of the Bills', has ideal intangibles and it is believed that head coach Dick Jauron might prefer him over Patrick Willis.
13. St. Louis Rams – Nebraska defensive lineman Adam Carriker. The Rams have fallen short when drafting defensive linemen, but if the 49ers were to take Willis or Branch, it is very possible the Rams would switch to Carriker at this spot. If not, they are likely to stay on the defensive side of the ball and select Pittsburgh cornerback/return man Darrelle Revis.
14. Carolina Panthers – Mississippi linebacker Patrick Willis. This pick will come down to adding an offensive threat like tight end Greg Olsen or fortifying a defense that let them down so often a year ago.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers – Florida State linebacker Lawrence Timmons. The Steelers, who are likely to have a heavy defensive draft, could wait for a defensive back until later on the first day and opt for an outside linebacker like Timmons. He would be a good fit as they make the move towards a Tampa 2 scheme over the next few years. Head coach Mike Tomlin sees Timmons as being a guy that can become a Derrick Brooks-type playmaker that his defense needs in order to be successful.
16. Green Bay Packers – Miami (Fla.) tight end Greg Olsen. In an average class of running backs, the most obvious option would be to select Marshawn Lynch. However, they have seemed to cool a little on him and could find a much better combination of choices by adding another receiving threat like Olsen and coming back with a running back in rounds 2 or 3.
17. Jacksonville Jaguars – Florida defensive back Reggie Nelson. There should still be a solid group of potential pass rushers on the board in the middle of the second round relative to available safety prospects if they pass on Nelson here.
18. Cincinnati Bengals – Michigan cornerback Leon Hall. Hall fills a number of voids for them, including the fact that he has a great reputation and comes from a solid program. This would be an ideal choice for their defensive unit and still gives them room to solidify things up front or draft a receiver later in the first day.
19. Tennessee Titans – USC wide receiver Dwayne Jarrett. The Titans have two major concerns on the offensive side of the ball: getting the ball down field and making sure there is a solid ground attack to help support quarterback Vince Young. It is likely that the Titans could find a change-of- pace back to pair with LenDale White in the middle rounds, but they need to secure a true playmaker for Young's ability to advance this coming season. Cornerback will also be considered at this spot.
20. NY Giants – Pittsburgh cornerback Darrelle Revis. The Giants could opt for the speed of Ted Ginn Jr., but '06 draft pick Sinorice Moss has similar abilities. A guy such as Robert Meachem, who has very good hands, would give them a vertical threat. However, this selection would also send a message to several of their veteran players that no position is safe on this roster. Revis could press Sam Madison for his job and also take over most of the return game.
21. Denver Broncos – Central Michigan offensive tackle Joe Staley. The Broncos will continue to try dealing up the draft, especially if Wisconsin offensive tackle Joe Thomas slides down past the first few teams. If not, they can find themselves in good fortune by finding the ultra-athletic Staley still on the board here. There has also been some late speculation that the Broncos could deal this choice to the Bears for the rights to linebacker Lance Briggs.
22. Dallas Cowboys – Ohio State wide receiver/return man Ted Ginn Jr. The Cowboys have secured most of their positions of need through free agency, which opens the door for either a deal down or for them taking a gamble on a player such as Ginn or even Marshawn Lynch.
23. Kansas City Chiefs – Tennessee defensive tackle Justin Harrell. Teams have grown very fond of his toughness and motor. However, if Marshawn Lynch slides to this spot, it will make for an interesting debate inside the team’s war room as general manager Carl Peterson is known for having made decisions like that in the past (Larry Johnson when Priest Holmes was at his prime).
24 New England Patriots – California running back Marshawn Lynch. This is what makes the Patriots such a solidly built team: when a player slides, they put their full resources to work and draw their own conclusions. After adding depth in several areas this offseason, the Patriots now have a chance to add a second back from the last two drafts without having to spend a high draft choice or expensive signing bonus. Their other option here would be to take versatile running back Brian Leonard and come back with a defensive player such as Jon Beason or Tanard Jackson at No. 28.
25. New York Jets – Arkansas cornerback Chris Houston. Houston is a perfect fit for their defense since he is able to play man coverage, but also has excellent strength and could lock down one side of the field. If the Chiefs were to pass on Justin Harrell, he seems to be the type of guy head coach Eric Mangini likes. Harrell also fills a spot they are looking to improve.
26. Philadelphia Eagles – Rutgers running back Brian Leonard. Adding a combo back such as Leonard would then give them a more diversified offense. If they went for a defensive back here, it would likely be either Brandon Meriweather or Tanard Jackson.
27. New Orleans Saints – LSU wide receiver Dwayne Bowe. The Saints have been targeting a cornerback and wide receiver. If they are unable to add restricted free agent cornerback Jason David, they are likely to attempt a draft day trade up, especially if one of the top corners were to slide past No. 15.
28. New England Patriots – Miami (Fla.) linebacker Jon Beason. The addition of Beason, who has the versatility and intangibles that the Patriots desire, offers them a player that can back up at several spots in the short term before taking over as the future leader of the team's linebacker corps. The signing of veteran cornerback Tory James means the Patriots can pursue the top players on their board opposed to simply drafting for need, which means they could go with either Beason or a safety at this pick.
29. Baltimore Ravens – Purdue defensive end/outside linebacker Anthony Spencer. The Ravens are trying to add depth and plan to draft a quarterback of the future later on the first day. They seem more comfortable with the fact that left offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden will return, but expect them to still search for a backup plan nonetheless. The loss of Adalius Thomas and possible contract situation with Terrell Suggs could heavily impact their defensive unit, which is why adding a pass rusher such as Spencer would be an ideal choice at this point. Spencer is a versatile defender that can play a situational role in their scheme as a rookie and start within a short period of time.
30. San Diego Chargers – Miami (Fla.) safety Brandon Meriweather. Their biggest need is to find a playmaker for the middle of their secondary. Meriweather has answered most of the questions about his character and athletically would provide them with the range/playmaking skills they lacked in Terrence Kiel and others they have tried the past few seasons at this same position. If Tanard Jackson is still be on the board, it makes things more interesting here, but I think they would still favor Meriweather.
31. Chicago Bears – Tennessee wide receiver Robert Meachem. If several defensive prospects go between picks No. 18-25, the Bears could very well find themselves with the chance to grab a vertical threat receiver like Meachem.
32. Indianapolis Colts – Ohio State wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez. Gonzalez is a smart, athletic, high-character receiver that would fit perfectly for their No. 3 role now that Brandon Stokley is gone. The Colts will also take a serious look at Hampton linebacker Justin Durant at this choice or could drop back a few slots and take him early in the second round.