Our third installment of the mock draft shows how much one week of free agency can change the outlook and fortunes of so many players. The domino effect of one player jumping up or down NFL draft boards will become even more evident between this version of how the first round could play out and the one that will be submitted later this month.
So with a little more than seven weeks to go until the Oakland Raiders officially go on the clock, here's how the first 32 picks are shaping up.
1. Oakland Raiders – JaMarcus Russell, quarterback, LSU. Yet to make a move on adding a new quarterback, although dealing disgruntled former All-Pro wide receiver Randy Moss could open the door for a late move by Calvin Johnson to the top spot. Let's face it: How likely are the Raiders to pass on a 4.3 (40-yard dash) wide receiver with that kind of size and production if quarterback isn't the most pressing need? They still could make a move for a signal caller, especially if Houston's David Carr becomes available.
2. Detroit Lions – Joe Thomas, offensive tackle, Wisconsin. This will become the most hotly contested spot in the top 10 for anyone looking to make a deal. If the Lions are not sold on Thomas being a definite left tackle prospect – he has shorter than ideal arm length – and know they could slide down a few spots in order to secure the services of one of the top pass rushers, it could be a wild 15 minutes on the clock. The results of Arkansas defensive lineman Jamaal Anderson's pro day could influence their final decision. But with free agent Dewayne White on board, they could shift their attention to cornerback, linebacker or even back to taking Brady Quinn.
3. Cleveland Browns – Adrian Peterson, running back, Oklahoma. Adding a playmaker of this type makes a whole lot of sense considering the money they spent on guard Eric Steinbach. Although they still need to address their defensive line, an impact guy like Peterson is too much to pass on. It would be very interesting to see what would happen if the Raiders take Brady Quinn because Browns general manager Phil Savage has known and followed the career of fellow Mobile, Ala., native JaMarcus Russell for nearly his entire life.
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Calvin Johnson, wide receiver, Georgia Tech. This is one of the smartest picks on the board as they have added a veteran signal caller (Jeff Garcia), strengthened the left side of their offensive line and restructured the contract of veteran speedster Joey Galloway. Johnson would be a perfect complement to their offense, but if he comes off the board No. 1 overall, it is very possible the Bucs would deal down with a team looking for one of the quarterbacks as they have to address their defensive line early in this draft as well.
5. Arizona Cardinals – Jamaal Anderson, defensive lineman, Arkansas. Both VP of football operations Rod Graves and head coach Ken Whisenhunt share the belief that you go after the best player on the board. If Thomas is removed from the equation, it is hard to believe they would just squeeze the next best tackle on the board into this pick. They have a need to secure the services of a playmaker to line up opposite pass rusher Bertrand Berry. Opposing offensive coordinators would be unable to double-team both Berry and Anderson, who fits the profile of being this year's version of Mario Williams – a pass rusher whose stock suddenly rose as the draft approached.
6. Washington Redskins – Gaines Adams, defensive end, Clemson. The Redskins have addressed their needs at middle linebacker and cornerback with veteran free agents, so the next issue is finding a pass rusher to complement those additions. Adams is a pure edge rusher with very good speed and the ability to add instant credibility to a front four that struggled to make plays a year ago.
7. Minnesota Vikings – Brady Quinn, quarterback, Notre Dame. Adding slot receiver Bobby Wade is not exactly the high-profile move necessary to increase the production of an offense that lacked big-play ability last season. They have several needs at cornerback and safety but also could use an edge rusher to compete with Erasmus James and Kenechi Udeze. However, the one thing the Vikings are missing more than at those areas is a face of the franchise. Even with the developmental upside of second-year signal caller Tarvaris Jackson, the chance to draft a possible NFL icon like Quinn will be too much for them to pass on.
8. Houston Texans – LaRon Landry, safety, LSU. The addition of running back Ahman Green gives them a legitimate weapon in the backfield, and it would be interesting to see what would happen if Quinn were still on the board. They are hoping to have Charles Spencer (knee injury) back on the offensive line, and they added playmakers at defensive line and linebacker a year ago in the draft. As a result, they can turn their attention to a secondary that has been lacking a true playmaker since the franchise's inception. Landry is exactly the type of instinctive, aggressive defender they need to patrol the secondary, and his lights-out workout at the NFL scouting combine certainly raised his stock.
9. Miami Dolphins – Alan Branch, defensive lineman, Michigan. The Dolphins are going full blast after a potential playoff run by adding veteran Pro Bowl outside linebacker Joey Porter to play with Jason Taylor and Zach Thomas. It is likely they will address the quarterback position with either a deal for veteran Trent Green or the hopeful return of Daunte Culpepper. By adding a space-eater in the middle, Taylor and Porter to wreak havoc or cover the edge. Additionally, the Dolphins dealt veteran defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson to Denver and could use a variety of the 4-3 and 3-4 should they add a player of Branch's size and versatility.
10. Atlanta Falcons – Chris Houston, cornerback, Arkansas. The Falcons seem committed to changing up several areas to conform to the team's new coaching staff led by Bobby Petrino. They have signed fullback Ovie Mughelli and evaluated several heavier offensive linemen, but they are also seeking help at defensive end and safety. New defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer turned his former team, the Cowboys, into a top-10 unit and specializes in pass defense as he was formally Dallas' secondary coach. The Falcons attempted to trade for Dre' Bly, and last year's second-round choice Jimmy Williams has the versatility to be moved to free safety. Houston, who plays right corner and is mentored by former All-Pro defender Deion Sanders, instantly could challenge Allen Rossum for the starting job.
11. San Francisco 49ers – Adam Carriker, defensive lineman, Nebraska. The 49ers already have upgraded their defense in a couple of areas – cornerback and outside linebacker – so they will now turn their attention either to adding another weapon for developing quarterback Alex Smith or addressing the continued development of their defensive unit. Coach Mike Nolan's staff had the chance to see him up close at the Senior Bowl and with greater depth at receiver than defensive line, they should opt for the former standout Cornhusker. He would give them the added versatility of being able to play in any type of scheme they employ.
12. Buffalo Bills – Patrick Willis, linebacker, Mississippi. As expected, the Bills lost a pair of starting defenders – cornerback Nate Clements and linebacker London Fletcher-Baker – at the start of free agency. They have last year's second-round choice Ashton Youboty on the bench, and the depth of this year's cornerback position is such that they could dip back into that market in the next two rounds and come up with competition for the spot vacated by Clements. Meanwhile, the loss of leadership in the middle is much greater because they currently would slide outside linebacker Angelo Crowell back inside where he played a few years ago. However, adding the instinctive and impressively athletic Willis to an already strong nucleus would allow them to keep much better cohesion on the defensive side of the ball.
13. St. Louis Rams – Amobi Okoye, defensive tackle, Louisville. The Rams are hoping to upgrade a few areas, but none is more pressing than finding additional help to stop the run. They ranked 31st against the run last year. They added defensive end James Hall via a trade, so the other areas of concern besides interior run stuff are offensive tackle and cornerback. The Rams spent a high choice on offensive tackle Alex Barron two years ago, and grabbing a defender like Okoye, who at only 19 still won't be in the prime of his career after his first contract expires, makes a lot of sense.
14. Carolina Panthers – Levi Brown, offensive tackle, Penn State. The defense struggled after losing linebackers Will Witherspoon ('06 free agency) and then Dan Morgan (injury), but they have other areas – offensive tackle and tight end – that have yet to be addressed in free agency. If the Panthers are to rebound from last season's struggles, they have to fortify their offense, especially at the tackle spot. Brown would allow them to shift former first-round pick Jordan Gross back to the right side and increase their overall depth if former starter Travelle Wharton returns from a knee injury. If they already are convinced of Wharton's healthy return, picking Miami (Fla.) tight end Greg Olsen here would make a lot of sense.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers – Leon Hall, cornerback, Michigan. The Steelers got burned on the outside several times last season and need to upgrade the corner position, even though Ike Taylor has recommitted himself to getting back into the starting lineup. Most observers believe that over time, new head coach Mike Tomlin will look to shift from a pure 3-4 to more of his own Cover 2 that has been so successful in the past. The selection of Hall would be the first step toward achieving that goal.
16. Green Bay Packers – Ted Ginn Jr., wide receiver/kick returner, Ohio State. The Packers need to address finding another playmaker on offense, so it could come down to a trio of prospects. But after losing Ahman Green in free agency, general manager Ted Thompson said he felt comfortable with the backs they had on the roster. If they're unable to secure the services of Randy Moss, the ideal choice for them would be this versatile Buckeyes' speedster. He instantly improves their special teams, and when combined with Donald Driver and Greg Jennings, he offers them the chance to put three solid receivers out on the field for the returning Brett Favre.
17. Jacksonville Jaguars – Reggie Nelson, defensive back, Florida. The Jaguars need an outside pass rusher, even with the expected return of Reggie Hayward. They had zero depth at that position last season and play in a division that has two premier franchise signal callers – Peyton Manning and Vince Young. However, while the cornerback position is solid, a playmaking safety who can create turnovers would be of greater value to the defensive unit as a whole. If they address the secondary in Round 1, expect to see a pass rusher taken somewhere on the first day.
18. Cincinnati Bengals – Jon Beason, linebacker, Miami (Fla.). The Bengals have several questions yet to be answered on the defensive side of the ball, but the depth at cornerback is better than expected after watching the results from the combine. They have serious issues at linebacker as David Pollack, Odell Thurman and A.J. Nicholson could be unavailable for various reasons heading into next season. Beason is more versatile than Penn State's Paul Posluszny, who could also fit into this spot. If Ahmad Brooks is ready to step up to replace Brian Simmons, Beason could shift outside. Either way, he would give them a smart, instinctive defender with great intangibles and character as well.
19. Tennessee Titans – Robert Meachem, wide receiver, Tennessee. Last month, I posted him in this spot and took a lot of heat for doing so. However, his performance at the combine should ease concerns about who the best available receiver would be at this spot. The loss of Drew Bennett creates an even bigger hole, especially since the team had to also cut leading rusher Travis Henry. They expect LenDale White to take over the bulk of the carries, so addressing the need for a vertical threat takes precedence.
20. New York Giants – Marshawn Lynch, running back, California. They are looking to get younger at several spots – offensive tackle, linebacker and even cornerback – but locating a running back who properly can be paired with Brandon Jacobs still has to head that list. The Giants have been looking for a change-of-pace back through free agency or a trade, but Lynch would offer a perfect complement because he is an excellent pass catcher. He has good size to pick up the blitz if used as a third-down back and more than enough speed to take those outside carries while Jacobs bangs up the middle. If the Giants sign a free-agent back, they likely will turn their attention to someone like Posluszny or defensive tackle Tank Tyler.
21. Denver Broncos – Jarvis Moss, defensive end, Florida. They have acquired a new starting running back (Travis Henry) in free agency while also adding Dan Wilkinson up front and cornerback Dre' Bly. Adding tight end Daniel Graham ends their interest in Greg Olsen, but finding an athletic pass rusher that can create problems off the edge still is a glaring need that would be addressed with the addition of Moss. If the Broncos get overwhelmed by an offer from the Redskins (Shawn Springs, Ladell Betts and a pick) for the rights to Bly, they could opt for a corner at this spot.
22. Dallas Cowboys – Brandon Meriweather, safety, Miami (Fla.). Down the stretch, opponents had a far too easy time making plays over the top in pass coverage. Meriweather would put a stop to that and could become a huge difference-maker in the sense that his arrival would allow All-Pro safety Roy Williams to advance up in the box where he is a one-of-a-kind playmaker. If they slide starting cornerback Anthony Henry inside to safety, Texas cornerback Aaron Ross could be the pick here.
23. Kansas City Chiefs – Joe Staley, offensive tackle, Central Michigan. They still could lose the services of Jordan Black, which heightens the need to secure a top-level replacement. Staley has yet to work out for scouts, but they have a good idea of what to expect because he ran a sub-4.9 40 last spring. His upcoming pro day is likely to attract most of the top line coaches in the game as the former tight end has great feet, improved upper-body strength and the smarts to step into the lineup as a rookie. The Chiefs are in a transition period on offense, as aging All-Pro guard Will Shields is facing retirement and the team may be on the verge of turning the quarterback reins over to second-year signal caller Brodie Croyle. The receiver class has enough depth for them to add a quality tackle here and come back in Round 2 looking for a pass catcher.
24. New England Patriots – Greg Olsen, tight end, Miami (Fla.). The loss of Daniel Graham to free agency does not create a huge hole, but the Patriots' way of doing things is to pick the best players on the board and look for spots where they can create mismatches. A late-season injury to last year's second-round pick Chad Jackson has created a bit of concern, but adding a versatile weapon like Olsen – who can line up at tight end, slot or even out wide thanks to his speed – would give them yet another choice that would raise eyebrows on draft day but dividends on Sundays. The addition of tight end Kyle Brady to serve as a blocker would have no effect on them picking Olsen if he is on the board.
25. New York Jets – Anthony Spencer, defensive end/outside linebacker, Purdue. The Jets have addressed their backfield situation (Thomas Jones), so the critical areas of concern are mostly on the defensive side of the ball – nose tackle, pass rusher and cornerback. If a guy like Greg Olsen were to slide to this spot, I believe they would take a long look at how the board stacks up for finding defensive help in the next two rounds. But because that scenario does not play out here, the primary need area for them is finding a front-seven playmaker. As they initially indicated an interest in acquiring the services of Adalius Thomas, the pass rusher comes before the run stuffer. Spencer has ideal speed and athleticism to be this year's version of the new "hybrid"-scheme pass rusher. His versatility as a defender also will excite head coach Eric Mangini.
26. Philadelphia Eagles – Dwayne Bowe, wide receiver, LSU. The Eagles have not taken an offensive skill-position player in the first round of the draft since 2001 when they selected wide receiver Freddie Mitchell. There should be no fear taking a receiver here as the size, speed and big-play ability of Bowe would offer returning starting quarterback Donovan McNabb an excellent vertical threat to go alongside possession receiver Reggie Brown and tight end L.J. Smith.
27. New Orleans Saints – Aaron Ross, cornerback, Texas. The Saints are looking to upgrade a defensive unit that played well for the most part last season but could use an infusion of talent at the cornerback position. Ross also doubles as a fine all-around special teams performer and showed ideal ball skills and toughness to challenge for playing time right away on a team that is determined to prove 2006 was no fluke. If Greg Olsen gets into the middle of the first round, you can expect to see the Saints make a few calls about trading up. Adding a player like him to an already explosive offense would be a great addition.
28. New England Patriots – Marcus McCauley, cornerback, Fresno State. Because they have a pair of first-round picks and few glaring weaknesses, they can take a bit of a gamble on a player who has tons of ability and upside but may be lacking in some area. Entering this season, McCauley had top-10 ability but failed to show up on film and played inconsistently at the Senior Bowl. However, he has great size, ran sub-4.4 40s at the combine and may have some of the best natural ability of any available defender. The Patriots go for the home run on this as they know he has the skill level to become a quality starting cornerback in the NFL if his talent can be harnessed.
29. Baltimore Ravens – Tony Ugoh, offensive tackle, Arkansas. The Ravens are looking to find help at offensive guard, but the impressive combine performance of Ugoh gives them a glimpse of what is to come down the line. He should receive the chance to sit and learn behind perennial All-Pro tackle Jonathan Ogden. The Ravens are unsure how much longer Ogden will play, and they already lost starting right tackle Tony Pashos via free agency. The alternative here is to address the guard spot by taking a guy like Texas' Justin Blalock.
30. San Diego Chargers – Michael Griffin, safety, Texas. The area of greatest need is safety after the release of Terrence Kiel. The addition of Griffin, who also is an outstanding special teams player, would offer them much greater range at strong safety. They also could address linebacker and wide receiver early in the draft. Posluszny could be a surprise choice here if he's available.
31. Chicago Bears – Paul Posluszny, linebacker, Penn State. Coming off their loss in the Super Bowl, the Bears have had to deal with several issues, including the ongoing questions about quarterback Rex Grossman, the recent trade of running back Thomas Jones and the potential impact in the locker room if a nasty holdout ensues this summer with Pro Bowl linebacker Lance Briggs. I believe this will be resolved via a trade, but adding someone with the production, smarts and intangibles of Posluszny would give the Bears a solid option should Briggs be dealt or hold out.
32. Indianapolis Colts – Lawrence Timmons, outside linebacker, Florida State. In the previous mock, Timmons went 18 picks earlier. However, his average combine results and a slower than anticipated run on linebackers based on the early free agent moves allows the Colts to find an ideal replacement for Cato June should he leave via free agency. If June returns, the next two chief areas of concern would be adding a young run stuff like Tank Tyler. They recently cut ties with Montae Reagor and do not intend to bring back Corey Simon. Another option could be grabbing someone like Brandon Meriweather or Michael Griffin if he slipped down to this spot.