Final first-round NFL mock drafts

Everyone has an opinion of which player is going where leading up to the NFL draft. With this year’s draft upon us, here are the side-by-side selections of the final mock drafts by Wes Bunting of The National Football Post and Nolan Nawrocki of Pro Football Weekly.

Subject
The National Football Post
Pro
Football
1. Detroit
Detroit
Matthew Stafford, QB, Georgia

It’s official. The Lions have their franchise quarterback for the pretty price of $78 million over six years. Stafford’s big arm should fit nicely in new offensive coordinator Scott Linehan’s down-the-field passing attack.

Matthew Stafford, QB, Georgia

Scott Linehan’s vertical offense requires a big arm, a trait that his quarterback never had in St. Louis. The decision to pass on Jay Cutler in the 2006 draft (the Rams traded the No. 11 pick to Denver and ended up selecting CB Tye Hill with the 15th pick) may have cost Linehan his first head-coaching job, but Jim Schwartz did not make the same mistake with Stafford, whose intelligence sealed the deal.

2. St. Louis
St. Louis
Jason Smith, OT, Baylor

The Rams would prefer to trade down, but landing a reliable, athletic left tackle with great footwork isn’t a bad consolation prize.

Jason Smith, OT, Baylor

Tough, physical, competitive and nasty, Smith not only fills the Rams’ biggest need after they released Orlando Pace, he also will bring a surly attitude that will help establish a new identity on the offensive line.

3. Kansas City
Kansas City
Tyson Jackson, DE, LSU

The Chiefs have tried all week to trade out of this spot, even willing to take below-market value. While Jackson may come as a surprise to some, he’s a very physical run defender who can anchor the Chiefs’ youthful defense.

Tyson Jackson, DE, LSU

A very durable, prototype five-technique, Jackson gives the Chiefs an anchor to build their defense around, much the same way GM Scott Pioli did with Bill Belichick in New England. It may not be a sexy pick, but it’s safe and will bring the Chiefs much closer to being able to run the “30” front Pioli knows so well.

4. Seattle
Seattle
Mark Sanchez, QB, USC

The “where-will-Mark-Sanchez-go” question is solved in the first hour of the draft as the Seahawks look to the future and pull the trigger at No. 4. Learning from Pro Bowl quarterback Matt Hasselbeck will aid greatly in Sanchez’s growth as an NFL signal-caller.

Aaron Curry, OLB, Wake Forest

The safest pick in the draft goes to the general manager, Tim Ruskell, with the track record of being arguably the most conservative of any decision maker in the NFL. After having unloaded Julian Peterson earlier in the offseason in exchange for Cory Redding, a vacancy was created for Curry to fill that could once again re-establish the Seahawks’ LB corps as the NFL’s best, much to the satisfaction of new head coach Jim Mora.

5. Cleveland
Cleveland
Aaron Curry, OLB Wake Forest

If Braylon Edwards isn’t traded by the time the Browns are on the clock, Cleveland will have the luxury of drafting the explosive Curry. He may struggle as a rush linebacker, but what he does provide is an instant defensive upgrade for the Browns.

B.J. Raji, DT, Boston College

Eric Mangini and George Kokinis have been quick to clean up the locker room, get rid of problems and malcontents and establish a new culture. They have already sent TE Kellen Winslow packing early in the offseason. Before the first round is over, WR Braylon Edward could be gone, too. DT Shaun Rogers may not be going anywhere, but he could be kicked outside to end, which would give the Browns a more dominant front with which to defend the run in a physical, smashmouth division where stopping the run is critical. With a roster open to trading, anything could happen in Cleveland, including a trade of QB Brady Quinn, but Raji provides the girth Mangini desires in the trenches.

6. Cincinnati
Cincinnati
Andre Smith, OT, Alabama

With so many needs to address on both sides of the ball, the Bengals once again disregard character concerns and draft the Crimson Tide standout.

Andre Smith, OT, Alabama

The top-rated tackle on the Bengals’ board, Smith could replace the aging, injury-prone Levi Jones and fill a pressing need, especially after Stacy Andrews slipped away in free agency. Smith may be immature and require some extra attention managing during the week, but his excellent feet, arm length and overall agility should allow him to start from Day One.

7. Oakland
Oakland
Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Maryland

In a move sure to surprise the crowd in attendance in New York, the Raiders prove the only thing that matters is what they think. Owner Al Davis loves speed and Heyward-Bey has plenty of it. The big question is whether he can develop into an elite NFL wide receiver.

Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Maryland

With Al Davis growing increasingly intrigued by WR Percy Harvin, there was some fear that the top of the draft could be shaken up, but Davis has never been fond of players with drug issues and he loves to take shots on big-time talent.

8. Jacksonville
Jacksonville
Eugene Monroe, OT, Virginia

Don’t be the least bit shocked if Jacksonville trades out of this spot. If the Jags can’t find any takers, they will look to the best value on the board and take the superathletic Monroe. His balance and recovery have him NFL-ready.

Chris Wells, RB, Ohio State

It’s difficult to overcome an average offensive line, but having the league’s most physical 1-2 backfield punch, capable of being their own blockers and creating their own holes, should make it difficult to stop the Jaguars’ offense. The Jaguars showed very early interest in trading down and desperately want to move this pick. The key is whether the Redskins can work out a deal to ship Jason Campbell to the Jets and receive trade value in return to make this pick happen. Dan Snyder will be the most aggressive getting what he wants, and Mark Sanchez likely becomes the new franchise quarterback in Washington. If the Jaguars cannot move this pick, they have to go with Virginia OLT Eugene Monroe here.

9. Green Bay
Green Bay
B.J. Raji, DT, Boston College

As new defensive coordinator Dom Capers begins the process of transitioning the Pack from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 defense, he knows one of the key components will be a stout stuffer in the middle. B.C.’s Raji is the perfect man for the job.

Eugene Monroe, OT, Virginia

Passing Michael Crabtree could be awfully difficult for Ted Thompson, who has always valued the best talent over need, but with major questions on the offensive line, passing Monroe at this pick could be even more difficult.

10. San Francisco
San Francisco
Michael Oher, OT, Mississippi

The Niners could go a couple of directions here (especially with wideout Michael Crabtree still on the board) but end up addressing a major concern with the selection of the gifted left tackle. Oher will need time to learn and develop, but he has unlimited upside if he’s brought up the right way.

Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech

The 49ers will be doing cartwheels if Crabtree falls to them, but character and injury concerns, and having never been timed in the 40-yard dash, could wind up costing Crabtree in this draft. If Crabtree is gone, the Niners could be even happier addressing their offensive line and kicking Joe Staley back over to the right side.

11. Buffalo
Buffalo
Brian Orakpo, DE, Texas

The Bills have several needs (offensive tackle, tight end, pass rusher) but decide on Orakpo come selection time. He’s a workout warrior who has all of the athletic tools. The key will be for Buffalo to figure out how best to use his talents.

Aaron Maybin, DE, Penn State

The Bills need an end who can rush from either the right or the left side, and Maybin fits the bill and has as much upside as any pass rusher in the draft. He is a great fit for Perry Fewell’s defense.

12. Denver
Denver
Robert Ayers, OLB, Tennessee

Recent reports indicate the Broncos are unlikely to move up to acquire Southern California QB Mark Sanchez, so look for Denver to draft a much-needed pass rusher. One of the more undervalued players in this year’s draft, Ayers has a world of potential as a five-technique pass rusher.

Brian Orakpo, DE, Texas

The key for the Broncos is improving their front seven, which sorely lacks the parts needed to effectively run a “30” front. Orakpo can make an impact from the rush linebacker position and allow Denver to ship off some underachieving defensive ends picked by Mike Shanahan.

13. Washington
Washington
Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech

Washington is in the market for a quarterback and could be the wild-card team that throws the whole first round out of whack. If they can’t find any trade partners, owner Daniel Snyder won’t pass on Crabtree’s talent and star power.

Mark Sanchez, QB, USC

Owner Dan Snyder has invested too much time figuring out how to land a quarterback after a potential Jay Cutler deal slipped out of his hands at the last moment. Sanchez will not last until the 13th pick, but a creative owner will find a way to get what he wants, even if he has to mortgage the future to get up to the eighth or 10th pick.

14. New Orleans
New Orleans
Malcolm Jenkins, DB, Ohio State

If Jenkins doesn’t make it this far, look for the Saints to draft Ohio State running back Chris “Beanie” Wells. If Jenkins is available, the Saints will continue to upgrade their defense in an effort to complement one of the NFL’s most potent passing attacks. (Side note: With only one pick in the first three rounds, don’t be surprised if you see the Saints trade up to acquire safety Louis Delmas).

Malcolm Jenkins, DB, Ohio State

The Saints need to improve their size at the CB position, and Jenkins has plenty of it. After years of being unable to find an elite cornerback, they finally land a great one.

15. Houston
Houston
Clay Matthews, OLB, USC

With a dangerous offense already in place, the Texans will make Matthews the first Trojan linebacker off the board in an effort to improve a defense anchored by former No. 1 overall pick Mario Williams. Matthews can be used in a variety of ways and will make an immediate impact on special teams.

Brian Cushing, OLB, USC

Defensive coordinator Frank Bush craves speed and versatility at the LB position, and Cushing not only can play all three positions, he plays fast and leaves everything on the field.

16. San Diego
San Diego
Chris Wells, RB, Ohio State

Southern California middle linebacker Rey Maualuga is a real possibility here, but San Diego needs a physical, between-the-tackles running back. Yes, they already have LaDainian Tomlinson and Darren Sproles, but for how much longer?

Rey Maualuga, ILB, USC

In a game where the angles are shorter and there are fewer spread offenses, Maualuga will be less exposed playing in space. He plays the smashmouth brand of power football that Chargers GM A.J. Smith loves.

17. N.Y. Jets
N.Y. Jets
Percy Harvin, WR, Florida
The Jets have several needs they must address, and if they can’t trade up to acquire Southern California’s Sanchez, they will go offense and add the dynamic Harvin. He may need some time to adjust to the NFL level but, if used correctly, could provide an impact almost immediately.
Jeremy Maclin, WR, Missouri

Percy Harvin has gained a lot of momentum in New York, but with Maclin still available, the Jets have to make the safe pick and take the dynamic playmaker with far less risk.

18. Denver
(from Chicago)
Denver
Knowshon Moreno, RB, Georgia

With two picks in the top 18, it may come as a surprise that Denver would look to acquire yet another running back. However, Moreno’s speed, elusiveness and ability to catch the ball out of the backfield may be too much to pass up for rookie head coach Josh McDaniels.

Knowshon Moreno, RB, Georgia

The Broncos have a lot of running backs, but they do not have a proven workhorse such as Moreno, who comes out of the tunnel screaming and will energize the offense and make a solid quarterback look much better.

19. Tampa Bay
Tampa Bay
Josh Freeman, QB, Kansas State

The Bucs have made it no secret they are in the market for a quarterback. Freeman is widely considered as a QB with an unlimited ceiling, as well as an unlimited floor. Boom or bust is what Tampa Bay is getting.

Josh Freeman, QB, Kansas State

Raheem Morris coached Freeman at Kansas State and is very comfortable with Freeman’s work ethic. It could give him the Ben Roethlisberger that Mike Tomlin has on his roster.

20. Detroit
(from Dallas)
Detroit
Peria Jerry, DT, Mississippi

With franchise quarterback Matthew Stafford already under contract, look for new head coach Jim Schwartz to go defense with his second pick in the first round. Jerry provides and upgrade to a defensive line that ranked dead last in the NFL against the run last season.

Michael Oher, OT, Mississippi

The Lions are open to go in a lot of different directions, but being able to provide protection for a franchise quarterback is paramount.

21. Philadelphia
Philadelphia
Vontae Davis, CB, Illinois

If running back Knowshon Moreno is available at No. 21, look for the Eagles to pull the trigger. Tight end is also an issue (think: Brandon Pettigrew), but with Sheldon Brown unhappy about his contract situation, Philly may be forced to head in an unanticipated direction.

Vontae Davis, CB, Illinois

Adding an explosive cornerback could allow the Eagles to potentially deal Sheldon Brown on Draft Day and provide the size desired to match up with the big, physical receivers in the NFC East.

22. Minnesota
Minnesota
Jeremy Maclin, WR, Missouri

The Vikings are interested in wide receiver Percy Harvin, but he likely will be gone by the time the Purple goes on the clock. Instead, look for the free-fall of Maclin to be a welcomed surprise to the decision-makers in the Twin Cities.

Percy Harvin, WR, Florida

With questions at quarterback, the offense needs a big-time playmaker, and as long as owner Zygi Wilf signs off on Harvin, the Vikings will land an impact player who can make their offense dominant. Harvin can do what Brian Westbrook does for the Eagles and would be a force in an offense with Adrian Peterson.

23. New England
New England
Darius Butler, CB, Connecticut

The advantage to being a successful team like the Patriots means that on draft day, you can sit back and let it come to you. Butler shores up a secondary in need of a spark.

Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Oklahoma State

With Bill Belichick calling the offense, the TE position becomes even more critical. Pettigrew makes an average pair of offensive tackles much better and keeps Tom Brady clean in the pocket.

24. Atlanta
Atlanta
Evander Hood, DT, Missouri

Now that the trade for Pro Bowl tight end Tony Gonzalez is complete, Atlanta is free to start improving its defense. What better way than a nasty run-stopping tackle you can build your defense around?

Peria Jerry, DT, Mississippi

Jerry has an excellent motor and can immediately upgrade the Falcons’ pass rush from the inside. A year after the Falcons passed on Glenn Dorsey, Jerry could turn out to be a much better solution inside.

25. Miami
Miami
Brian Cushing, OLB, USC
This one is a no-brainer. Head decision-maker Bill Parcells is from New Jersey, and there is no way he will be able to pass on the Garden State kid from USC.
Robert Ayers, OLB, Tennessee

If there were ever a good replacement for Joey Porter, Robert Ayers is it. He has the length, motor and versatility to make a difference in a “30” front.

26. Baltimore
Baltimore
Rey Maualuga, ILB, USC

The final Trojan linebacker is off the board after the Ravens go defense and draft the bone-crushing Maualuga. Who better to learn from than All-World linebacker Ray Lewis? (Note: Cornerback is a real possibility here as well).

Darius Butler, CB, Connecticut

Value has a way of finding Ozzie Newsome, and even though he has more pressing needs, Butler would be a great fit for the Ravens’ defense.

27. Indianapolis
Indianapolis
Brian Robiskie, WR, Ohio State

One of the bigger surprises of the first round, the Colts draft the son of former NFL running back Terry Robiskie. He’ll need to be developed, but the Colts have shown time and time again they know how to bring up receivers.

James Laurinaitis, LB, Ohio State

Bill Polian does not miss on many first-round picks, and he has proven that he loves Big 10-bred talent. Laurinaitis brings leadership to the Colts’ defense and starts for 10 years.

28. Buffalo
(from Carolina through Philadelphia)
Philadelphia
Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Oklahoma State

Arizona offensive tackle Eben Britton is a possibility here, but Pettigrew’s size, speed and athleticism will be too much for the Bills to pass on at No. 28.

Eben Britton, OT, Arizona

The Bills could look inside for a versatile interior player after giving up on Derrick Dockery, but Britton could help inside or outside and helps replace Jason Peters.

29. N.Y. Giants
N.Y. Giants
Kenny Britt, WR, Rutgers

The absence of wideout Plaxico Burress in last year’s playoffs showed the Giants just how important a big, physical presence in the red zone is to their success. The 6’3, 218-pound Britt may be the answer.

Hakeem Nicks, WR, North Carolina

This pick could easily be part of a deal that results in Browns WR Braylon Edwards coming to New York, but if the Giants stay put, they need to find another weapon to replace the released Plaxico Burress.

30. Tennessee
Tennessee
Alphonso Smith, CB, Wake Forest

His size may be a concern, but what Smith lacks in physical stature he more than makes up for with body control and balance. He has a ton of upside and the Titans could use the help at cornerback.

Evander Hood, DT, Missouri

With the top corners and receivers off the board, Hood could help provide the pass rush inside that Albert Haynesworth once did, and give new defensive coordinator Chuck Cecil more ammunition in the trenches.

31. Arizona
Arizona
Donald Brown, RB, Connecticut

The Cards have been in the market for a running back since the Super Bowl ended, and it looks like Donald Brown is their guy. His quick first step and open-field vision are a great fit for the explosive Arizona offense.

Donald Brown, RB, Connecticut

With Edgerrin James expected to depart, the Cardinals need youth in the backfield, and Brown would be an excellent complement alongside Tim Hightower. Northern Illinois OLB-DE Larry English could also sneak into the first round at this spot.

32. Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh
Max Unger, C, Oregon

It’s tough to say the defending champs have a weakness, but if they do, it’s along the offensive side. Look for them to address this concern by drafting the athletically gifted center from Oregon who can play almost anywhere on the offensive line.

Eric Wood, C, Louisville

The Steelers need to replace Justin Hartwig, and Wood has the size, smarts and strength desired in the middle to carry on the Steelers’ tradition. There’s a chance he will be gone before the Steelers pick and that they may aggressively make a move up for a cornerback.

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If you would like to read more about the players who are about to enter the April 25-26 NFL draft, Pro Football Weekly has the publication that fits the bill – the 2009 Draft Preview book, available now at >www.pfwstore.com. The 180-page 2009 Draft Preview book contains detailed scouting reports on nearly 500 prospects. You’ll also get our rankings of more than 1,000 draft prospects.