The final few weeks leading up to the NFL draft will seem like a "Groundhog Day" version of April 1 as every storyline is full of innuendo, speculation and falsehoods that keep happening over and over until commissioner Roger Goodell reaches the lectern at noon Eastern on April 28.
The Raiders have the first pick and could use it on a quarterback or a wide receiver. The Lions have the second overall pick, but might not be in love with anyone enough to pay the price for that choice. The door is open for a trade, but can they find a suitable partner?
Here's the latest mock draft, which also includes second-round projections.
1. Oakland Raiders – LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell. Russell has set a big impression on folks with his eye-opening raw skill level and arm strength. However, the Raiders are also working out a number of the second-tier quarterbacks. If they find a guy they really like, then Calvin Johnson's name could come into focus. A trade, while not likely, is not the worst-case scenario for a team looking to add more than just one new playmaker.
2. Detroit Lions – Wisconsin offensive tackle Joe Thomas. Several teams are trying to deal up for this pick and based on who goes No. 1 overall, it should allow the Lions the chance to deal down at least once in order to obtain extra draft choices. Unless they make a deal to go way down the draft board, there is still a chance they could land Thomas – though Denver or Chicago could be eyeing a move into the top 10 to get him.
3. Cleveland Browns – Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn. The Browns could be sitting pretty if the draft plays out differently and the Raiders take Calvin Johnson. Such a scenario would give Cleveland its choice of quarterbacks. But even with just one still on the board, they come out as winners as they could potentially flip-flop picks with the Buccaneers.
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Georgia Tech wide receiver Calvin Johnson. The Bucs have spoken publicly about both quarterbacks, Adrian Peterson and Joe Thomas, while keeping their desire to add Johnson under wraps. If the receiver were to go No. 1 overall and the Lions were to deal down, the Bucs could be at No. 4 with Johnson, Russell and Quinn all off the board.
5. Arizona Cardinals – Clemson defensive end Gaines Adams. The signing of Mike Gandy potentially fills their hole at offensive tackle, so it seems even more likely that they will take the top-rated defensive player on their board. There has been some speculation that they will either play a hybrid 3-4 scheme or have plans to incorporate it into their future plans. Jamaal Anderson is a better fit in a 4-3, while Adams would give them the versatility of being able to rush the passer from either alignment.
6. Washington Redskins – Arkansas defensive lineman Jamaal Anderson. The Redskins are still trying to make a deal for Bears All-Pro linebacker Lance Briggs. If that trade goes through, which would drop Washington down to the 31st pick overall, the Redskins will target a pass rusher with that pick. Even if no deal happens with Chicago, they could also slide down a few spots on draft day and still up Jamaal Anderson. He has the ability to contribute across their front line and give them the type of pass rushing presence they were missing a year ago.
7. Minnesota Vikings – Oklahoma running back Adrian Peterson. I initially had reservations about this pick, but several sources have indicated the Vikings' willingness to add an offensive playmaker by any means necessary. Peterson's value inside the dome with a young quarterback and solid offensive line is an approach they would seriously consider. This week's signing of safety Mike Doss could persuade them to pass on LSU's LaRon Landry.
8. Atlanta Falcons – LSU safety LaRon Landry. The addition of Landry would give them an instant playmaker in the middle of field to pair with All-Pro cover corner DeAngelo Hall. A pair of options would be for them to go after either offensive tackle Levi Brown – a bigger, more physical type blocker that head coach Bobby Petrino now says he prefers – or former Petrino standout Amobi Okoye.
9. Miami Dolphins – Louisville defensive tackle Amobi Okoye. The Dolphins plan to move last year's top pick, Jason Allen, around in the secondary in hopes of finding a spot he can contribute at more than he did as a rookie. They need to find the best front-seven playmaker, so this choice could come down to either Okoye or Adam Carriker with the 19-year old sensation winning out as most evaluators believe he is capable of being productive regardless of style or scheme.
10. Houston Texans – Penn State offensive tackle Levi Brown. The Texans have admitted that they are not 100 percent sure of tackle Charles Spencer's health status. This will be a tough choice for them as they are without a second-round choice, but Brown is the best option on the board to help supply the proper blocking for their recently added new QB (Matt Schaub) and running back (Ahman Green).
11. San Francisco 49ers – Nebraska defensive lineman Adam Carriker. The 49ers need a front-line playmaker in order to make the full-time switch to a 3-4 scheme and Carriker provides them the best model for playing end in that scheme. He has had some outstanding workouts and interviews leading up to the draft.
12. Buffalo Bills – Mississippi linebacker Patrick Willis. The belief here is that the Bills feel they can get a potential 1,000-yard rusher in the second round, but passing on Willis would come back to bite them. Willis has the same type of intangibles that led them to jump up and take Donte' Whitner a year ago.
13. St. Louis Rams – Pittsburgh cornerback Darrelle Revis. The Rams have fallen short when drafting defensive linemen (i.e. Jimmy Kennedy), so passing on Alan Branch should not come as too much of a surprise. Revis has the ability to contribute as a return specialist and the team would prefer a defender with good size, which gives him an edge on others that could be considered here.
14. Carolina Panthers – Miami (Fla.) tight end Greg Olsen. The Panthers will closely evaluate the type of defensive players that will remain on the board for rounds 2-3 as they would like to come away with an offensive playmaker, inside linebacker and safety on day one. Olsen would serve as both a pass-catching threat in the middle of the field and a decoy capable of opening things up receiver Steve Smith and running back DeAngelo Williams. His presence would also make the unit a speed-oriented offense similar to others in the NFC South.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers – Michigan cornerback Leon Hall. The Steelers need to find an impact defender who can challenge for a starting job right away, but also adapt to any eventual change in schemes. Hall showed better speed than expected in his workouts, which combined with his experience, ball skills and run-support ability is sure to impress his new boss.
16. Green Bay Packers – California running back Marshawn Lynch. The Packers have said all the right things about their backfield situation, but if Olsen is unavailable, they could turn Lynch. Lynch has gone through a lot of offseason scrutiny as he's been questioned about an accusation of sexual assault and a mysterious back injury. Even if Lynch is the highest available prospect on their board in the first round, they could pass on him as it's unlikely he will immediately take over as an every-down back.
17. Jacksonville Jaguars – Florida defensive back Reggie Nelson. The Jaguars were in-force at Nelson's pro day. Furthermore, they can hold off until the middle of the second round to find a pass rusher. It is also highly doubtful that they would use yet another first-round choice on a wide receiver.
18. Cincinnati Bengals – Michigan defensive lineman Alan Branch. He has top-10 skill and ability, yet he is now outside the top 10 on many draft boards. He has had just average workouts and even looked a bit out of shape at his pro day. He can be a bit too finesse and that has teams worried about whether he will be a great playmaker, but the Bengals would gamble on his upside at this portion of the first round.
19. Tennessee Titans – Tennessee wide receiver Robert Meachem. The obvious option for the Titans would be that in a deep class of cornerbacks, they could jump on a cover corner to protect them in case they lose starting corner Adam "Pacman" Jones. However, they seem to be turning toward more of a zone coverage scheme that would allow them to find a productive defender later on the first day.
20. NY Giants – Miami (Fla.) linebacker Jon Beason. The addition of veteran linebacker Kawika Mitchell is not a sure-fire indication that the Giants plan to skip over this position early in the draft. Mitchell can play either strong side or inside, which gives them some versatility. Beason can also play a variety of roles and eventually even replace Antonio Pierce in the middle. New general manager Jerry Reese has his own ideas, so Giants fans should get used to more athletic, diverse draft choices. I would not be surprised if the Giants opted here for Ted Ginn, Jr. or Dwayne Jarrett.
21. Denver Broncos – Central Michigan offensive tackle Joe Staley. The Broncos will continue to try dealing up the draft, especially if Joe Thomas slides down past the first few pick. If not, ultra-athletic Staley should still be on the board. He might need a year of development, but he has all the tools to become a standout left tackle during his career.
22. Dallas Cowboys – Arkansas cornerback Chris Houston. Chances are that after signing safety Ken Hamlin, the 'Boys will attempt to trade back to get an extra high pick in the second round and another draft choice as well. If they do slide back, expect the Cowboys to go for either a wide receiver (Anthony Gonzalez) first and then come back with the best cornerback or offensive linemen on the board, unless a guy like defensive tackle Tank Tyler falls in their lap.
23. Kansas City Chiefs – Ohio State wide receiver/return man Ted Ginn, Jr. The Chiefs figure to be active as they continue to seek bidders for the rights to quarterback Trent Green. The chance to take a guy such as Ginn would be too much to pass on thanks to his rare speed and return skills. It is still 50/50 that he is able to complete a full workout for scouts on April 12, but he could still opt to try running again the week leading into the draft.
24 New England Patriots – Florida defensive end/outside linebacker Jarvis Moss. Mike Vrabel and Tedy Bruschi have each been in the league at least 10 years, so it makes sense to add a guy like Moss who could fill in 20-25 plays a game. A few sources have linked Beason to this spot if he is still available, but they could also take a defensive back first and come back with a linebacker or pass rusher at No. 28.
25. New York Jets – Purdue defensive end/outside linebacker Anthony Spencer. The Jets have shown that they will travel to the ends of the football earth to find a possible pass rusher after signing former first-round choice Andre Wadsworth, who has not played since 2000. They are armed with a pair of second-round choices who could either help them fortify their secondary or find a pass-catching tight end. Spencer has the speed and ability to contribute off the edge, but it his motor and character that grabs the Jets' attention.
26. Philadelphia Eagles – Rutgers running back Brian Leonard. They might have other needs but a combo back like Leonard can be teamed with Brian Westbrook. The pair could play together at times with Westbrook motioning out to the slot and Leonard's presence would give them a more diversified offense to build around the return of quarterback Donovan McNabb.
27. New Orleans Saints – LSU wide receiver Dwayne Bowe. If they are unable to trade up in the first round, then I expect them to make a move later on the first day since they have six picks in the first four rounds. The theory here is that inserting a playmaker like Bowe opposite the equally impressive Marques Colston would give them potentially the most physically dominating offense in the NFC if not the league
28. New England Patriots – Syracuse defensive back Tanard Jackson. Jackson might be considered a surprise choice over a few more recognizable names, but he is a versatile defender who can back up Rodney Harrison and even fill in at nickel back and special teams. Those abilities give him the edge at this point of the draft.
29. Baltimore Ravens – Arkansas offensive tackle Tony Ugoh. This is a pick of insurance as All-Pro left tackle Jonathan Ogden could retire this summer if his toe injury isn't completely healed. Other options would be that they could find a fixture like Ryan Kalil for the center position or they could also go after a guy such as Anthony Spencer if he were to fall this far.
30. San Diego Chargers – Miami (Fla.) safety Brandon Meriweather. The Chargers' biggest need is to find a playmaker for the middle of their secondary, something that has been lacking since they cut ties with Rodney Harrison in 2003. Meriweather would give them exactly the type of attitude and play level needed to put this defense over the top in terms of being the most dominating in the AFC next season.
31. Chicago Bears – Florida State linebacker Lawrence Timmons. The Bears could go in a number of directions here after adding some veteran backups in recent weeks. They could opt for adding an outside linebacker if Lance Briggs is dealt. They could also target an offensive tackle, wide receiver or even cornerback as they have a pair of starters (Charles Tillman and Nathan Vasher) who will hit the free-agent market at year's end. Players like Paul Posluszny, Aaron Ross or even Dwayne Jarrett could be considered here.
32. Indianapolis Colts – North Carolina State defensive tackle Tank Tyler. The Colts will go with the best player on the board, which could also match one of their primary need areas. A run-stuffer like Tyler is a good fit, though they could make an off the board choice of a running back such as Brian Leonard or even a wide receiver. What makes the Colts smart and savvy on draft day is that they go after their type of player and do not pay attention to the potential market value of that prospect.
- Calvin Johnson
- Adrian Peterson
- Penn State