It's true in any draft -- one surprise pick can lead to the demolition of five draft boards. And from there, the toppling dominoes can lead to some very strange bedfellows. Now that the Redskins have made their annual trip to the supermarket and come away with one of the offseason's biggest prizes (and surprises) in Donovan McNabb(notes), the top of the draft becomes a bit clearer. From there, however, things could still fly off the handle with just one or two surprise picks, and the annual run on a specific position.
1. St. Louis Rams -- QB Sam Bradford, Oklahoma: At this point, it's pretty easy to do the math. After the Rams raved about Bradford's private workout on the 29th, Marc Bulger(notes) (who is represented by Bradford's agent, Tom Condon) requested his release. The question is, what kind of offense will the Rams run with Bradford at the controls? Bradford operated primarily out of the shotgun with the Sooners, and 2009 first-round pick Jason Smith(notes) is still a better blocker in a two-point stance and out of the shotgun. The receivers are a mixed bag at best, the offensive line is a bit better than you'd expect, and Steven Jackson is the only real playmaker. Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur is used to more of a West Coast offense approach, but Bradford might be better suited to learning to read NFL defenses in formations he already knows. Bradford's talent is undeniable, but so will be his transition to the pro game.
2. Detroit Lions -- DT Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska: Left guard Rob Sims(notes) was available from the Seahawks for the trade price of a fifth-round pick because he doesn't fit Seattle's new scheme. Putting Sims on the roster probably puts to rest the rumors that had the Lions taking an elite offensive tackle with the second overall pick and moving current left tackle Jeff Backus(notes) inside. And when the Lions have the chance to grab a once-in-a-decade player like Suh, it just makes sense. Perhaps no player in this year's draft class comes to the NFL with this much ability to make an instant difference in so many ways. Suh will be a perfect fit in the four-man fronts designed by Jim Schwartz and Gunther Cunningham.
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- S Eric Berry, Tennessee: Most mocks have the Bucs taking whichever defensive tackle is available between Suh and Oklahoma's Gerald McCoy. And given Tampa Bay's porous run defense in 2009, the move certainly makes sense. But what might make even more sense is for the Bucs to fill their need in pass defense. Especially early in the season, this defense was routinely embarrassed by the deep ball in Cover-1 looks. Schematic adjustments were made, but a rebuilding team needs a defensive leader, and that's exactly what Berry could be. Whether he's playing near the line or out in center field, no player drafted this year will have Berry's combination of run-stopping ability, speed to stop the deep pass, and on-field intelligence.
4. Washington Redskins -- OT Russell Okung, Oklahoma State: Now that the Redskins have decided to make Donovan McNabb the face of their franchise, the next step is to insure that the new face doesn't get beaten up. The 'Skins allowed 46 sacks and 97 quarterback hits in 2009, both among the worst in the league, and both inexcusable given how many times Jason Campbell(notes) had to bail out with dink throws at the last second. Okung isn't a dominant run blocker, and he looks a bit wobbly at the second level, but he's the kind of pure pass-blocker this team needs going forward, and he's the first step toward erasing the effects of line neglect brought about by the prior administration.
5. Kansas City Chiefs -- OT Bryan Bulaga, Iowa: Just under the 45 sacks allowed by the Redskins? The 44 allowed by the Chiefs, and the nine allowed by left tackle Branden Albert(notes). Kansas City got deeper inside with the acquisitions of Ryan Lilja(notes) and Casey Wiegmann(notes), and the second-round tender placed on right tackle Ryan O'Callaghan(notes) seems to point to a "business as usual" attitude toward the left tackle position. But the Chiefs invested a great deal in Matt Cassel(notes), and GM Scott Pioli would prefer that said investment didn't get his brains beaten in again. Pioli's long association with Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz might lead to the selection of Bulaga, who brings an excellent sense of fundamentals (not to mention a real nasty streak) to the position. The Chiefs could then move Albert to guard or right tackle, providing them with the line depth common to most improving teams.
6. Seattle Seahawks -- OT Trent Williams, Oklahoma: After moving from right to left tackle before the 2009 season, Williams gradually grew into his new role. He's still blamed by some for the hit that caused Sam Bradford's shoulder injury in the season opener against BYU, but Williams was facing an overload blitz in an unfamiliar position, and his wasn't the only blown assignment. Teams looking more at the second half of Williams' season, when he started to develop the finesse moves to go with his outstanding drive-blocking, should be intrigued by his potential. None more so than new Seahawks line coach Alex Gibbs, the zone-blocking guru who can mold Williams into the next great NFL left tackle.
7. Cleveland Browns -- DT Gerald McCoy, Oklahoma: Believe it or not! This is an extreme scenario for McCoy, but every draft has a player who drops down a bit as a result of a run on a certain position. With Berry's early pick and three straight teams emptying the shelves of the best offensive tackles in this class, McCoy is suddenly available to a Browns team in desperate need of solid production in its front seven. At 6-4 and 300 pounds, and with a tendency to get washed out by double-teams at times, McCoy might really surprise as a dominant five-tech end in a 3-man front. And when the Browns switch to a four-man front, he's the ideal three-tech alongside Shaun Rogers(notes).
8. Oakland Raiders -- CB Joe Haden, Florida: Most have the Raiders taking the most athletic offensive tackle available here, but if Al Davis is still in charge, there's one position he enjoys above all others. Going back to Willie Brown, through the glory days of Lester Hayes and Mike Haynes, to the current excellence of Nnamdi Asomugha(notes), Davis has a major thing for cornerbacks. Haden would be tough for Davis to resist here, given his ability to lock down receivers in the Raiders' preferred man-on-man coverages. With this pick, the Raiders would pass the Bengals as the team with the NFL's best CB duo.
9. Buffalo Bills -- DT Dan Williams, Tennessee: The Bills need a signal-caller, but head coach Chan Gailey can get a good fit in the later rounds because he likes working with option quarterbacks. The run on tackles leaves them with players not quite worthy of the ninth overall pick at that position. So, with the defense switching to the ever-popular 3-4 front, it's time to address the nose tackle position. Williams played mostly one-tech for the Vols in Monte Kiffin's defense, but he's got a host of 3-4 teams looking at him, and for good reason. He's got the size and skillset to make a seamless transition to the role of two-gap tackle, providing the Bills with one port in their current storm of rebuilding.
10. Jacksonville Jaguars -- ILB Rolando McClain, Alabama: With the outstanding Aaron Kampman(notes) deal, the Jags addressed one of their defensive issues -- the lack of a consistent pass rush. There are needs in the secondary as well, but former linebacker Jack Del Rio would find it difficult to resist McClain here. Jacksonville tried a misbegotten version of the 3-4 defense last year, but had to abandon the notion more and more as they just didn't have the linebackers for it. McClain was the enforcer in Nick Saban's 3-4, and he'll come to the NFL as pro-ready as any player.
11. Denver Broncos (from Chicago) -- C Maurkice Pouncey, Florida: Bad news for the Broncos, as the few best 3-4 guys are gone, and the team will have to find their future inside linebacker and nose tackle later on. That's fine, though -- the later rounds are for need, and this is where you pick the best player available to enhance your system. As the Broncos move away from the zone-blocking that defined their offense for years, they need the kind of center who can move with agility and dominate with inside power. Pouncey is a bit of a reach here, and the Broncos might move back a bit to take him, but he'll be a great fit going forward. We're assuming, of course, that the Broncos find a way to mend fences with Brandon Marshall(notes) for one season, avoiding the need to overdraft Dez Bryant.
12. Miami Dolphins -- S Earl Thomas, Texas: In 2009, the Fins took care of their cornerback needs for the future with the additions of Vontae Davis(notes) and Sean Smith(notes). After cutting Gibril Wilson(notes) and missing out on Antrel Rolle(notes) and Ryan Clark(notes), Bill Parcells will take a safety with pure cornerback speed to firm up a defense that allowed 57 pass plays of 20 yards or more last season, the third-worst mark in the league (Miami gave up 17 pass plays of 40 yards or more, tied with the Lions for the league's worst). Thomas isn't a dynamo in run support, but he provides the kind of value unique to true cover safeties in the modern NFL.
13. San Francisco 49ers -- OT Anthony Davis(notes), Rutgers: Well, you don't draft for need most of the time. If you're the 49ers, however, you take the best available offensive tackle with a quickness and hope you can deal with the possible work ethic concerns down the road. San Francisco had the NFL's worst offensive line by just about any measure, and Davis has the kind of elite and balanced play that would benefit any front five, The questions reside in his ability to stay focused and hold a reasonable weight. Perhaps the hope would be that Mike Singletary, one of the toughest motivators in the NFL, could facilitate a long-term attitude change.
14. Seattle Seahawks (from Denver) -- DE Derrick Morgan, Georgia Tech: Pete Carroll may have deferred to Alex Gibbs for the Seahawks' first pick in the first round, but now the master of the 4-3 under-front defense gets his ya-yas out. People tend to focus on pure pass-rush ability with defensive ends, which may leave Morgan's wider palette unexciting to some. But he's the one end in this draft who stops the run as consistently and as well as he goes after the passer, which will be a big help to a Seattle defense that has spent too may high picks on ends with indifferent results in recent years.
15. New York Giants -- RB C.J. Spiller, Clemson: The Giants have many needs in their defensive front seven, but Jerry Reese firmly believes in the BPA method. No doubt that Spiller's the best guy left on the board, and his versatile playmaking skills could help the G-man in many ways -- at running back, in the slot, and in the return game. The former Earth, Wind, and Fire rushing attack looked more like the Pointer Sisters last season, with only Ahmad Bradshaw(notes) living up to his billing.
16. Tennessee Titans -- DE Jason Pierre-Paul, USF: In 1999, the Titans drafted a pass-rushing expert from the state of Florida by the name of Jevon Kearse(notes). "The Freak", who was also taken with the 16th overall pick, has a few things in common with Pierre-Paul. Both are long-limbed pure edge rushers with ridiculous athleticism and less than exceptional run-stopping ability. Pierre-Paul is very much a one-trick pony at this point -- all he really knows how to do is rush the passer -- but that's a first-round skill in his hands. As he develops over time, Pierre-Paul might live up to the legacy of Kearse, who bagged 36 sacks in his first three seasons.
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