April 20, 2010
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With two days left before the first round of the draft, the boards are basically locked. What you hear in war rooms now is the sound of phones ringing, and teams talking trade. Due to cost concerns and possible labor issues, there may be more teams looking to back out of the top five than ever before. Thus, the mock you see below could change in regard to the teams at different draft slots, but at least in the top five, the player names probably don't change that much.
1. St. Louis Rams -- QB Sam Bradford, Oklahoma: The Rams have done their final due diligence on the man who will most likely be the first overall pick - they held a private workout last Friday with Bradford. By all accounts, it went very well - St. Louis offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur was seen to say "Perfect!" and bang fists with Bradford after a few of his better throws. At this point, all that's left for Bradford to do is to travel to New York and get ready to tell his parents that he won't be needing his allowance anymore.
2. Detroit Lions -- DT Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska: We've said it before, and we'll say it again: Bradford may be the first overall pick, but that's a need-based decision to a point. When it comes to the best player in this draft class, Suh stands head and shoulders above. His on-field skills are nearly peerless; Suh will fit Detroit's aggressive 4-3 perfectly, but he would be a great fit anywhere on the line in any scheme. And don't be surprised if, as much as the Rams believe in Bradford, they don't feel a tinge of regret at letting Suh go anywhere else.
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - DT Gerald McCoy, Oklahoma: Any remnants of the formerly great Bucs defenses are long gone. Not only was Tampa Bay seriously vulnerable to the deep pass, their front four was extremely porous against the run, allowing almost five yards per carry. McCoy isn't a stand-up run defender; in fact, he will get pushed back at times. But he will use his stellar quickness to penetrate the line and wreak havoc in enemy backfields. He's best in a system with a larger tackle that can soak up blockers. In such a circumstance, McCoy has elite potential.
4. Washington Redskins - OT Trent Williams, Oklahoma: There was a time, not too long ago, when the question marks about Williams were far more voluminous than they are now. People wondered about his ability to move from right to left tackle as he did in 2009, until he improved in every game. He has overcome speculation about his work ethic and intelligence, returning to school to complete his education. Now, he's seen as a very good overall lineman with the potential to be truly amazing. The Redskins, desperate to replace Chris Samuels(notes) and protect Donovan McNabb's(notes) blind side, couldn't do much better.
5. Kansas City Chiefs - S Eric Berry, Tennessee: The Chiefs have several needs, but there are 250 reasons for them to take Berry fifth overall - that's the number of receiving yards Miles Austin(notes) of the Cowboys gashed them for in a Week 5 overtime loss. That was emblematic of Kansas City's inability to contain the deep pass, and it kept them out of a number of close games. More than any other defender in this draft class, Berry comes to the NFL with a ready-made skill set to help. He can play center field, move through zones with aplomb, and cover from the lines out of necessity. The concept of safety value is increasing, and Berry will be an indicator of this.
6. Seattle Seahawks - OT Russell Okung, Oklahoma State: While Trent Williams might be the better fit in Seattle's zone-blocking scheme, Okung doesn't disappoint here. Seattle's line is very much under construction, new GM John Schneider has to operate as if Walter Jones(notes) won't be back, and Okung is the most polished pass-blocker in this class.
7. Cleveland Browns - CB Kyle Wilson, Boise State: Look for a few interesting players to rise up draft boards in the next few days, and look for Wilson to be a prime example. The NFL is less about ready-made players than some might have you believe - more than anything else, it's about marrying established talent with athletic upside. Wilson's ability to trail the fastest receivers on deep routes brings an embryonic Darrelle Revis(notes) to mind, and there's no cornerback more on the minds of NFL personnel people when they're looking to fill their rosters in the draft.
8. Oakland Raiders - OT Bruce Campbell, Maryland: So many mocks have pointed Campbell to the Raiders, but just because something is crushingly obvious doesn't mean it isn't right. Campbell blew up the Combine with his speed, strength and agility-the problem is, the game doesn't match up just yet. However, given an optimal situation, he could transcend his current label as a big guy with basic athletic ability. It's just a shame that the Raiders don't present that optimal situation.
9. Buffalo Bills - OT Bryan Bulaga, Iowa: Many have Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen going here, but it's just as likely that the Bills could either take an option quarterback later in the draft (new head coach Chan Gailey loves them), or trade for Jason Campbell(notes). What they really need is help on the offensive line. There is some concern that Bulaga has been coached to the high side of his ability, but his command of blocking technique will be a huge asset to a Buffalo team with youth all over the roster.
10. Jacksonville Jaguars - S Earl Thomas, Texas: The Jags could use fortification in their front seven for the 3-4 defenses they want to run, but what they really need is consistent playmaking at the safety position. Reggie Nelson(notes) has been a big ball of "Who knows?", and there isn't any reliable help alongside him. Thomas probably has the best pure range of any safety in this class - he covers ground in a hurry, and he knows what to do when he gets where he needs to go, as evidenced by his eight interceptions and 10 passes defensed in 2009. Not a great tackler, but the Jags will take that tradeoff.
11. Denver Broncos (from Chicago) - ILB Rolando McClain, Alabama: Now that the Broncos have rid themselves of nearly every element of what used to be a pretty good little offense (not to mention the defensive coordinator who performed near-miracles in 2009), it's time to start the unnecessary rebuilding process. Whoopee! Where the Broncos need help defensively is right up the middle - they signed Jamal Williams(notes) to man the nose tackle position, but after cutting Andra Davis(notes), there's a weakness at the inside linebacker spot opposite D.J. Williams(notes). McClain can come in right away and help - he's well-versed in the 3-4 from his Alabama days, and he's a total film rat. That should hold the Broncos in good stead - at least until Josh McDaniels gets another wild hair and trades Ryan Clady(notes), Elvis Dumervil(notes), and the deed to Invesco Field.
12. Miami Dolphins - DT Dan Williams, Tennessee: The Dolphins have certainly benefited from McDaniels' mercurial ways - now that they have receiver Brandon Marshall(notes) and defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, perhaps the only thing that keeps them from serious contention in the AFC East is a good, young nose tackle. Jason Ferguson(notes) will miss the first eight games of the season due to suspension, and he'll be 36 in November. Williams played primarily in four-man fronts at Tennessee, but he's getting looks from 3-4 teams all along the line - everywhere from nose to five-tech end. For the Dolphins, he'd be the perfect Ferguson replacement.
13. San Francisco 49ers - CB Joe Haden, Florida: Offensive tackle would be the ideal pick for San Francisco here, but no need to reach with all the elite guys gone. The Niners also have a need in the secondary - Dre Bly is a depth player at best if he returns, and the defense could really use a player with the range, recovery speed, and surprising tackling ability that Haden brings to the field. Mike Singletary's defense took steps forward in 2009. Haden could provide that final championship-level element.
14. Seattle Seahawks (from Denver) - DE Brandon Graham, Michigan: It's commonly said that the Seahawks have a real need at defensive tackle, but they already have defensive tackles that can do everything decently. Where their real need lies is at the pure pass-rusher position. Graham played in three- and four-man fronts for the Wolverines, but he really stood out at the Senior Bowl, where he was directed to pin his ears back in a 4-3 front. That's what he'd be expected to do in Seattle.
15. New York Giants - RB C.J. Spiller, Clemson: While the G-men have needs along their front seven, they'd be hard-pressed to pass on Spiller if he drops to them here. An absolutely dynamic playmaker in the Chris Johnson mold, Spiller can add value as a running back, slot and wide receiver, and return man.
16. Tennessee Titans - DE Derrick Morgan, Georgia Tech: Losing Kyle Vanden Bosch(notes) to the Detroit Lions means that Jeff Fisher needs to find another defensive end who can stop the run as well as he goes after the quarterback. Morgan is just such a player. While his pass-rushing skills are somewhat underrated, nobody denies his ability to stay in his lane against the run no matter how he's firing off the edge.
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