Evan Silva

NFL Draft Preview

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First Mock Draft of the Year

Monday, January 25, 2010


Coming off a week of East-West Shrine practices that produced a number of interesting developments (and a game that didn't), NFL Draft season has kicked into high gear this week in Mobile, Alabama. Senior Bowl weigh-ins took place Monday. Week-long live practices ensue, leading up to Saturday's game. The entire event is being covered daily by NFL Network, with college guru and ex-Rams strong safety Corey Chavous, NFLN draft expert Mike Mayock, and former Iowa quarterback Paul Burmeister handling live, on-site analysis.

Mel Kiper released his first mock draft last Wednesday. With over three months before the real thing, here's ours:

1. St. Louis Rams - Nebraska DT Ndamukong Suh

The 2009 National Player of the Year, Suh took home the Outland (NCAA's best interior defensive lineman), Lombardi (best front seven player), Bednarik (best overall defender), and Nagurski (best NCAA defender) awards as a senior. Suh clearly is the draft's premier prospect. St. Louis needs help at every position, so GM Billy Devaney can safely take a best-available-player approach. Suh would line up as the Rams' "three-technique" next to NT Clifton Ryan, with injury-prone Adam Carriker available as a hybrid end/tackle off the bench. The Rams could trade a late-round pick for or sign Michael Vick after he's cut to play quarterback. At least he'd sell tickets.

2. Detroit Lions - Oklahoma State LT Russell Okung

Okung earned Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year and first-team All-American honors after allowing just one sack and two QB pressures as a senior. The Cowboys led the Big 12 in rushing in each of Okung's four seasons as a starter. A complete left tackle, Okung's addition would allow Jeff Backus to kick inside to left guard, where the Lions played musical chairs with Daniel Loper and Manuel Ramirez, among others, in 2009. GM Martin Mayhew has made it clear that his offseason agenda will be built around franchise quarterback Matthew Stafford. The draft is deep enough at defensive tackle that Detroit could pick a Lamarr Houston-type later on if need be.

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Tennessee S Eric Berry

Berry's numbers were down in '09, but the 21-year-old still earned the Jim Thorpe Award as D-I's top defensive back while learning under the masterful tutelage of Vols first-year coordinator Monte Kiffin. Kiffin, of course, ran the Bucs' defense when Tampa head coach Raheem Morris oversaw the team's secondary. Sure to get rave reviews from Kiffin, Berry put the team before himself as a junior, moving out of centerfield to shore up Tennessee's struggling run defense as a hybrid safety/linebacker. After ranking dead last in run defense last season, the Buccaneers could use a similar lift. Some analysts even consider Berry the best all-around player in the draft.

4. Washington Redskins - Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford

While recurring throwing-shoulder injuries are a major concern for Bradford, the Skins have an inside track on his prognosis because their team doctor performed the 2008 Heisman winner's surgery last October. Bradford's skill set is also an ideal fit for new coach Mike Shanahan's precision-based West Coast offense. Incredibly accurate with underrated mobility, the 6'4/223-pound fourth-year junior left college as the NCAA's all-time leader in passing efficiency while posting a career TD-to-INT ratio of 88-16. The Redskins' beat writers fully expect Shanahan to invest in an early-round quarterback, and Bradford is the best in this year's draft.

5. Kansas City Chiefs - Oklahoma State WR Dez Bryant

Bryant missed all but three games in 2009 after being suspended by the NCAA for lying about inappropriate interactions with NFL employee Deion Sanders, but the Academic All-Conference pick isn't an airhead. A leaper with incredible body control and hands, Bryant also has a game resembling Andre Johnson's. As a true sophomore for the Cowboys, Bryant was a first-team All American and the Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Year. He caught 87 passes for 1,480 yards and 19 touchdowns, adding 17 punt returns for an average of 17.9 yards per attempt and two more scores. The Chiefs' hire of offensive coordinator Charlie Weis strongly indicates that this offseason will be dedicated to helping Matt Cassel. Bryant would be the final piece to the puzzle.

6. Seattle Seahawks - Oklahoma DT Gerald McCoy

The 2008 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, McCoy lost out to Ndamukong Suh in his bid to repeat. But the fourth-year junior upped his production amid increased double teams, generating 16.5 tackles for loss and six sacks. McCoy, listed at 6'4/297, is an up-field pass rusher and everything ex-Seahawks GM Tim Ruskell hoped Cory Redding would be in 2009. Redding flamed out, so it's back to the drawing board for new coach Pete Carroll. Carroll will use a Tampa-2 style defensive scheme that requires penetration from the front four. He'll also expect immediate impact from his two top-15 picks. McCoy is the answer in both areas.

7. Cleveland Browns - Florida CB Joe Haden

Haden was the college version of Darrelle Revis in 2009. Gators coordinator Charlie Strong wasn't afraid to assign Haden to No. 1 receivers because of his shutdown capability, sure tackling, and ball skills. A complete corner, Haden led Florida in solo tackles, picks, and pass breakups, and tied for the team lead in forced fumbles. He's also likely to test well in February. The 5'11/190-pounder ran a 4.34 forty in high school and figures to solidify a top-ten draft slotting if he equals or betters that at the Combine. In Cleveland, Haden would team with Eric Wright to rival Cincinnati's Johnathan Joseph and Leon Hall as the AFC's most talented cornerback duo.

8. Oakland Raiders - Alabama MLB Rolando McClain

This pick may be too logical for owner Al Davis to comprehend, but McClain is worthy of a top-eight selection. The Butkus Award winner at "Mike" linebacker in Nick Saban's 3-4 scheme, McClain would also fit a 4-3 like Oakland's in the middle. The Raiders' rush defense annually ranks among the league's worst, and at 6'4/258 McClain is a tried-and-true run stopper. With the third-year junior calling plays in 2009, Alabama ranked second nationally in run defense and permitted an NCAA-low five rushing scores in 14 games. Oakland has been trying to replace current MLB Kirk Morrison for two years. He is also a restricted free agent this offseason.

9. Buffalo Bills - Iowa OT Bryan Bulaga

Bulaga missed three games in 2009 with a thyroid condition, but was so dominant when healthy that the Big Ten still named him Offensive Lineman of the Year. The converted tight end goes 6'6/315 and has drawn comparisons to Browns Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas for his athleticism and pass-blocking ability. While Buffalo desperately needs a franchise quarterback, new GM Buddy Nix and old-school coach Chan Gailey may be put off by No. 2 QB prospect Jimmy Clausen's cockiness. Bulaga would fill a huge need at right tackle initially, and perhaps move to the blind side if Nix and Gailey don't deem Demetrius Bell a worthy solution.

10. Jacksonville Jaguars - Georgia Tech DE Derrick Morgan

The Jags finished the season dead last in sack differential, mostly because they generated no pressure. The team's 14 sacks were also dead last. Jacksonville must draft the best pass rusher available, and at this position Morgan is it. An ideal base 4-3 end at 6'4/272, Morgan led the ACC in sacks in 2009 and was named conference Defensive Player of the Year. He'd book end underachieving Derrick Harvey at right defensive end, allowing Quentin Groves to slide back into a situational nickel-rushing role. Owner Wayne Weaver can safely wait for a later round to draft Tim Tebow.

11. Denver Broncos - Alabama NT Terrence Cody

Rolando McClain's behemoth "shield" for the national champs, Cody measured 6'4/370 at Monday's Senior Bowl weigh-in. Cody, who registered just six tackles for loss and no sacks as a senior, is not a pocket pusher. But 3-4 nose tackles like the two-time consensus first-team All American don't come around often. The Broncos sputtered against the run in 2009, finishing 26th overall as first-year NT Ronald Fields wore down late in the year. While weight issues are a big concern, Broncos coach Josh McDaniels should have the inside track on Cody's fitness and work ethic because Alabama's Nick Saban gave McD his first coaching job as a Michigan State graduate assistant.


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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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