Evan Silva

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2009 Draft: Mock It Down

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Like last year, this draft class is teeming with talent at offensive tackle. The top linemen will likely go off the board even quicker than 2008, when Jeff Otah, Ryan Clady, Jake Long, and Branden Albert all became immediate impact starters. There also is no shortage on cornerbacks and the receiver group puts last year's to shame. The quarterbacks are extremely weak, but overall this draft should prove to be one of the most successful in years. There are at least 20 first-round caliber seniors and 50 incoming underclassmen.

It's a little early to start mocking, but GMs and coaches have held their year-ending press conferences and provided offseason agendas. While that information is fresh on the mind, we may as well take our first crack at predicting round one.

1. Lions - Virginia LT Eugene Monroe

Among starting left tackles, only Jason Peters, Duane Brown, and John St. Clair gave up more sacks than Lions LT Jeff Backus in 2008. GM Martin Mayhew will consider a QB here, but Matthew Stafford's accuracy issues and Mark Sanchez's lack of ideal experience make them too risky. The Lions can hope Sanchez falls to them at No. 20, where they draft again. But they must hit on the first pick. At 6'6/315, Monroe is the most well put together blind-side tackle in this draft. His strength is his feet.

2. Rams - Texas DE Brian Orakpo

The foundation of new coach Steve Spagnuolo's 4-3 defense is pressure. Orakpo, who racked up 11.5 sacks as a senior and won the Nagurski Award as the nation's best defender, is tailor made to play weak-side end in a four-man front. Adding Orakpo would allow 2008 top pick Chris Long to move to left end, where his run-stopping ability would be capitalized on in a Justin Tuck-like role.

3. Chiefs - Georgia QB Matthew Stafford

Stafford's consistency is an issue, but the same was said of Matt Ryan last year. GM Scott Pioli can take a page from former understudy Tom Dimitroff, Atlanta's football boss, and select the draft's most pro-ready QB to build his franchise around. The Chiefs have a budding star LT (Branden Albert) and two weapons (Dwayne Bowe, Tony Gonzalez) to support the youngster. They can wait until round two for a needed edge rusher like Paul Kruger (Utah) or Michael Johnson (Georgia Tech).

4. Seahawks - Texas Tech WR Michael Crabtree

GM Tim Ruskell has identified wideout as a major area of need for the offseason. Seattle hasn't drafted a receiver in the first round since Koren Robinson in 2001, but now is the time. Nate Burleson is coming off a torn ACL and has been slow to pick up the offense. The Seahawks can start Crabtree at split end opposite Deion Branch and be competitive in Jim Mora's first year.

5. Browns - Penn State DE Aaron Maybin

Ex-GM Phil Savage's theory that Shaun Rogers and Corey Williams would increase OLB Kamerion Wimbley's pass-rushing opportunities seemed sensible in 2008, but it didn't pan out. Wimbley appears to have lost confidence while seeing incessant double teams since his 11-sack rookie year. At 6'4/236, Maybin is well built to play OLB in the 3-4 and could divert attention from Wimbley on the opposite side.

6. Bengals - Boston College DT B.J. Raji

The Bengals coveted Sedrick Ellis last April and almost certainly would've drafted him ninth had New Orleans not traded up for Ellis at the No. 7 pick. Raji is an inch and 29 pounds bigger, and just as disruptive. Adding a widebody to pair with Domata Peko would clear lanes for LBs Keith Rivers and Dhani Jones to make plays, which is defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer's ideal scenario.

7. Raiders - Baylor LT Jason Smith

Drafting a franchise left tackle probably makes too much sense for owner Al Davis, but Smith is arguably the most well-rounded player at the position in this draft. The Raiders have become a run-oriented team and Smith is a brute in the ground game with a non-stop motor, long arms, and devastating punch for zone blocking. As a converted tight end, he's also athletic enough for the system. The Mario Henderson and Kwame Harris experiments need to end in Oakland.

8. Jaguars - Alabama LT Andre Smith

Jacksonville has a king-sized hole to fill with incumbent LT Khalif Barnes headed to free agency. Though some prematurely pegged Smith as the No. 1 pick when the Crimson Tide topped national rankings (weight issues, short arms are red flags), he's still top-ten material at an immovable 6'4/340. The Jaguars' offense is run heavy and that's an area where Smith dominates. New GM Gene Smith also wants to draft for value, and Smith would arguably be the best player available.

9. Packers - Virginia OLB Clint Sintim

The Packers easily have the best chance to make the 2009 playoffs of any team drafting in the top ten and need a ready-made rush linebacker for their new 3-4. Sintim couldn't be a better fit. The fifth-year senior started at OLB in Al Groh's 3-4 defense for the past four seasons, registering 20 sacks in his final two years. Brady Poppinga, Brandon Chillar, and possibly AJ Hawk could compete to be his bookend outside.

10. 49ers - Ohio State CB Malcolm Jenkins

The Niners feel good about nickel back Tarell Brown's potential, but he's on the small side for an every-down corner in Mike Singletary's system. Jenkins boasts a 6'1/201-pound build, elite tackling skills that have drawn comparisons to fellow ex-Buckeye Nate Clements, and immediate starting ability. The 49ers also have a weakness at free safety and Jenkins has played that position before.

11. Bills - North Carolina WR Hakeem Nicks

Buffalo took a stab at finding Lee Evans' complement last year, tabbing James Hardy in round two. Hardy developed extremely slowly before tearing his ACL and can't be relied on for next season. With sensational ball skills and good size (6'1/215), Nicks would give the Bills a T.J. Houshmandzadeh-like possession presence and a go-to option inside the 20.

12. Broncos - USC ILB Rey Maualuga

Denver needs a banger for the middle of its new 3-4. With DEs Elvis Dumervil and Jarvis Moss moving to outside linebacker, Maualuga (6'2/254) would set the tone up the gut while D.J. Williams makes plays sideline to sideline. Some early projections had Maualuga higher than this, but his stock took a slight hit after reporting to the Senior Bowl out of shape and failing to stand out in early practices.

13. Redskins - Mississippi LT Michael Oher

Oher has unfairly been picked apart since being featured in Michael Lewis' best-seller The Blind Side. It isn't like anyone watched Ole Miss to see Cordera Eason, Dexter McCluster, or Jevan Snead after the book came out. Oher reported to the Senior Bowl in tip-top condition and dominated in practices. The Skins need tackle help badly with Jon Jansen and Chris Samuels battling bad knees.

14. Saints - Wake Forest LB Aaron Curry

New DC Gregg Williams runs a pressure-based scheme and Curry's Julian Peterson-style skill set would immediately upgrade the team's weak-side position. Incumbent Scott Shanle doesn't track ball carriers sideline to sideline like Curry, who runs 4.6 and lived in opposing backfields as a Demon Deacon (16 tackles for loss in 2008). Rarely does such a complete 4-3 linebacker come along.

15. Texans - Florida State DE Everette Brown

Mario Williams is amazingly productive (26.5 sacks in 2007-08) despite facing double teams on virtually every snap, but it's high time Houston got him help. As explosive a defender as there is in this draft, Brown notched 13.5 sacks and 21.5 tackles for loss as 21-year-old last season. New defensive boss Frank Bush vows to get better line play and another legitimate edge presence is how to start. Imagine what havoc Mario could cause with one-on-one opportunities.

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Evan Silva is a senior football editor for Rotoworld.com. He can be found on Twitter .
Email :Evan Silva

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