Evan Silva

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First Mock Draft of the Year

Monday, January 25, 2010

23. Green Bay Packers - USC LT Charles Brown

Green Bay's pass protection became league average or slightly better with the in-season addition of RT Mark Tauscher and LT Chad Clifton's return to health, but the Packers still gave up more sacks than anyone in the league. And both Tauscher and Clifton are free agents. Though Brown was only a two-year starter, he evolved into the Pac Ten's premier pass protector in his senior season while guarding freshman Matt Barkley's blind side. A high school tight end, Brown is also nimble enough on his feet to excel in Green Bay's downfield, zone-blocking scheme.

24. Philadelphia Eagles - Texas SS Earl Thomas

The Birds played musical chairs at free safety throughout 2009, using fifth-round rookie Macho Harris, coverage liability Sean Jones, and special teamer Quintin Demps at the position. None of them proved capable. Thomas played the strong side at UT, but at 5'10/197 with plenty of speed, is sure to move to "centerfield" in the pros. Second in the nation with eight interceptions (two returned for touchdowns) last year, Thomas offers the best ball skills in the draft and is plenty physical. The consensus first-team All American forced five fumbles in his final two seasons.

25. Baltimore Ravens - Georgia Tech WR Demaryius Thomas

Thomas isn't in the first-round discussion yet, but he's a player many GMs will fall in love with this February. Calvin Johnson's successor goes 6'3/229 and has unrivaled vertical skills. Though Thomas caught only 46 balls as a junior in Georgia Tech's decidedly run-based offense, he accounted for nearly 60% of the Yellow Jackets' completions and averaged a mind-boggling 25.1 yards per catch. "Bay-Bay" is also a bone-crushing run blocker. In addition to giving Joe Flacco the deep threat he sorely needs, Thomas would maintain plenty of value in running situations.

26. Arizona Cardinals - Oklahoma TE Jermaine Gresham

This assumes Kurt Warner will retire. The Cards will likely lean toward cornerback in the first round if he returns. Should Warner hang 'em up, Arizona figures to switch to a balanced offense that features Chris Wells, and requires a tight end to run underneath routes. Gresham, despite missing all of 2009 with a knee injury, is a complete TE who learned to block in OU's hybrid pro-style/spread offense as well as lining up in the slot. Dominant in the red zone in 2008, Gresham paced the Sooners with 14 TDs to go with 66 catches and 950 yards (14.4 YPC). While helping in the run game, Gresham would give Matt Leinart a much-needed safety valve over the middle.

27. Dallas Cowboys - Maryland LT Bruce Campbell

Dallas has question marks at both tackle spots, with LT Flozell Adams turning 35 this May and RT Marc Colombo coming off a playoff loss in which he was dominated by Vikings LE Ray Edwards. Doug Free could capably replace Colombo, but the Cowboys need a left tackle of the future. Campbell probably isn't ready to play right away. He started only 17 games at Maryland, missed three in 2009 with knee and turf toe injuries, and will have to add bulk to his 6'7/310-pound frame. But Campbell is an elite athlete at the position with Pro Bowl-caliber upside. He could learn for a year behind Adams, before starting in 2010 when Adams' base salary jumps to $5.1 million.

28. San Diego Chargers - Tennessee NT Dan Williams

San Diego's most glaring need is at tailback, but 3-4 nose tackles are much harder to find. Starter Jamal Williams turns 34 in April, enters the last year of his contract, and missed all but one game in '09 with a torn triceps. No. 2 nose tackle Ogemdi Nwagbuo, already undersized, also went on injured reserve after ten games with an ankle injury. Williams, who measured a stout 6'2/329 at Monday's Senior Bowl weigh-in, proved he could carry even more weight after leading the Volunteers in tackles for loss and quarterback pressures as a fifth-year senior.

29. New York Jets - Boise State CB Kyle Wilson

NFL Network's Mike Mayock didn't stop raving about Wilson at Monday's Senior Bowl practice, and it's easy to see why. Versed in press, off, and zone coverage, Wilson was a four-year starter for the Broncos who intercepted eight passes in his final two seasons, returning two for TDs as a senior. Wilson didn't miss a game in college, plays bigger than his size (5'10/190) indicates, and offers punt return value. In an overhaul of their secondary, the Jets plan to cut CBs Lito Sheppard and Donald Strickland this offseason, and trade FS Kerry Rhodes. They'll need reinforcements.

30. Minnesota Vikings - Idaho OG Mike Iupati

A road-grating mauler who at 6'5/325 with 35-inch arms could play right tackle if needed, Iupati's stock will be greatly impacted by this week's Senior Bowl. The Samoan isn't used to facing anyone resembling an NFL prospect, but will be pitted against talents ranging from 370-pound Alabama NT Terrence Cody to quick, up-field penetrating Texas DT Lamarr Houston. The bet here is that Iupati, who didn't allow a sack as a senior, holds up well and earns a late first-round grade. The Vikings' line struggled badly to run block down the stretch of 2009, with Adrian Peterson averaging 3.3 yards per carry from Week 9 until the NFC Championship Game. They need help on the interior.

31. New Orleans Saints - Michigan DE Brandon Graham

Graham's height (6'1/263) and abnormally short arms (30 inches) will probably keep him out of the top-30 picks, if not the first round altogether. His production says he should go in the top 15. The nation's leader in tackles for loss as a senior, Graham also led Michigan in sacks during each of his last three seasons to finish second in school history in both quarterback takedowns and TFLs. A high-motor defender, Graham would easily replace pedestrian nickel rusher Bobby McCray in New Orleans, and perhaps push LE Charles Grant off the roster with a big summer. Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams' system is built on pressure. Graham brings it.

32. Indianapolis Colts - Florida MLB Brandon Spikes

As the Colts continue their transition from a Tampa-2 defense to a scheme that actually gives them a shot to stop the run, they'll need bigger, stronger players in the front seven. Incumbent Gary Brackett remains a fine middle linebacker, but is a free agent this offseason and has long been undersized. Spikes, a thumper who has two inches and nearly 25 pounds on Brackett, is coming off a down senior year plagued by injuries and a suspension. But the three-time All-SEC first-teamer is a natural born leader and playmaker with underrated pass-rush ability from the interior.

Narrowly Missed: USC WR Damian Williams, Clemson OLB Ricky Sapp, LSU OT Ciron Black, TCU DE Jerry Hughes, Penn State LB Navarro Bowman, Florida TE Aaron Hernandez, Illinois WR Arrelious Benn, USC DE Everson Griffen, Notre Dame WR Golden Tate, LSU WR Brandon LaFell, California RB Jahvid Best, Florida State CB Patrick Robinson, Missouri LB Sean Weatherspoon, Penn State DE Jared Odrick, UMass OL Vladimir Ducasse, Arizona TE Rob Gronkowski, Cincinnati WR Mardy Gilyard

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