With rumors and rumblings coming from every direction at this time of year, you never know what to believe. We will attempt to clear the air about some of the draft's toughest questions and give you our take on the buzz going around media circles this week.
We've stated all along that the best quarterback in the 2009 NFL draft is USC product Mark Sanchez. However, the best quarterback for the Detroit Lions is Matthew Stafford. His arm strength and ability to get the ball down the field are an ideal fit for offensive coordinator Scott Linehan's vertical passing attack, and if the Lions do go for a quarterback, Stafford is the right choice.
The St. Louis Rams need to go left tackle, and it will either be Baylor's Jason Smith or Virginia's Eugene Monroe. Questions about Monroe's knee could be the tipping point for the Rams and lead them to Smith.
Kansas City Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli will draft a high-character player who will give the team some longevity at his position. Even though DT B.J. Raji and OT Andre Smith would both fill holes, no way either prospect gets selected by Pioli.
Another NFL executive who loves high-character players is Seattle Seahawks GM Tim Ruskell. Expect him to play it safe at pick four as well.
One franchise that doesn't quite put the same type of value on character is the Cincinnati Bengals. We know owner Mike Brown has the final say, but the entire coaching staff also plays a role in the scouting process. Character concern players like Andre Smith and Raji are both in play for the Bengals.
The Oakland Raiders also have the same disregard for character. However, we know that the biggest factor in the Oakland scouting department is speed. If the prospect can't run, he will never be an option. With no 40-yard time on WR Michael Crabtree, I can't see the Raiders selecting him even if he's still on the board. Conversely, three guys who are likely very high on the Raiders' board are WR Darrius Heyward-Bey (4.25), FS Chris Clemons (4.33) and CB/KR Michael Ray Garvin (4.24).
The San Francisco 49ers are in need of a pass rusher and an offensive tackle, but they could be the real hot spot for the Josh Freeman sweepstakes. I expect the 49ers to play the Jets and Buccaneers off each other Saturday and try to get the best deal possible. The Niners could be in a bit of a bind if the top four tackles come off the board before pick No. 10 (which is possible) and they're forced to take a pass rusher. Head coach Mike Singletary is demanding toughness from his entire team, and I can't see him being thrilled with any of the 3-4 OLBs' potential toughness at the next level.
The Buffalo Bills added the 28th overall pick to their arsenal with the Jason Peters trade, but they now have three significant needs (OT, DE, TE) instead of two. Their pick at No. 11 definitely seems like another potential hot spot for a trade, moving the Bills back in the first while acquiring another pick.
Even with the Denver Broncos' interest in Sanchez, there is simply no way they can afford to give up both first-round picks to move into the top five to get him. The Broncos have two respectable quarterbacks on their roster (Kyle Orton and Chris Simms) who should at least be serviceable in the passing game. However, their starting defensive front three now looks like Darrell Reid and Kenny Peterson at DE and Ronald Fields at nose tackle. The Broncos' picks would be better spent on potential starting defensive linemen – a much more productive strategy than packaging the picks to get Sanchez.
It's no secret that the Washington Redskins love Sanchez, but there's no way he falls to them at No. 13. If the 'Skins really want Sanchez, it may take a first-round pick in next year's draft to get him. Regardless, if Washington is forced to make a selection at pick 13, expect it to be for a prospect with a recognizable name such as Brian Cushing, Michael Oher or Malcolm Jenkins. Players like Robert Ayers and Peria Jerry just won't pique owner Dan Snyder's interest.
The New Orleans Saints could have an interesting debate about which Buckeye they should pick at 14. The Saints need to add a physical running back to their offense, and a guy like Chris "Beanie" Wells would instantly upgrade their run game. On the other hand, defensive coordinator Gregg Williams needs an instinctive, rangy safety in order to run his defense successfully, and Jenkins seems like an ideal fit. The discussion between head coach Sean Payton and Williams would be one I'd love to hear on draft day.
Do the Houston Texans invest another first-round pick in their defensive line? They've drafted three defensive lineman in the first round since 2005 (DTs Travis Johnson, Amobi Okoye and Mario Williams) and have only gotten significant production from Mario Williams. But the Texans will never take that next step until they improve their defense, and that starts up front.
Yes, the New York Jets did draft TE Dustin Keller in the first round last year. Still, he's not the type of do-it-all tight end who can play with his hand on the ground and take on defensive ends at the point of attack. He's an off-the-line Y who's at his best split out and making plays down the field. The Jets have just one tight end on their roster, so it would come as no surprise to see them take a long look at TE Brandon Pettigrew. Pettigrew can act as their on-the-line Y and allow Keller to do what he does best, make plays down the seam.
New Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive coordinator Jim Bates needs the front office to add bigger, more physical defensive linemen for him to run his defensive schemes successfully. If the Bucs are unable to trade up and land Freeman, don't be surprised to see them still attempt to move up and target a defensive lineman. They have no second-round pick this year, and I doubt they like their chances of finding an impact defensive lineman in the third round. Ayers seems like someone who would definitely pique the Bucs' interest as he makes for a nice complement across from DE Gaines Adams off the edge. However, Tampa Bay will at least need to jump ahead of the Broncos (who pick one spot before Tampa Bay) to have a chance of landing Ayers since I can't see Denver passing on Ayers at No. 18.
I've been harping on this in just about every mock draft, but if there's one tendency we know Bill Parcells has, it's that he loves big, physical players. Parcells, who was born in New Jersey, also loves prospects with ties to his home state, as well as players who are the sons of football coaches. So expect Cushing, who grew up and played his high school ball in New Jersey, and Ohio State WR Brian Robiskie, the son of long time NFL coach Terry Robiskie, to both receive substantial interest from the Miami Dolphins.
The National Football Post (www.nationalfootballpost.com) is a unique and premier online source of insight about all sides of football featuring professionals with experience in all facets of the NFL.
The NFP is having a contest to win a 42" inch flat screen television. Click here to play the NFP's 2009 Draft Challenge!
- Mark Sanchez
- Andre Smith