Evan Silva

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Post-Combine NFL Mock Draft

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Last week's Combine produced relatively few surprises, but did create separation at muddled positions on draft boards. Weighing in at 6'5/270 and running a 4.64 forty, USF's Jason Pierre-Paul made a serious case to be the first defensive end taken in April. Oklahoma's Sam Bradford showed up 13 pounds heavier than his college weight and -- most importantly -- carried it well, helping to dispel the idea that he'll be physically brittle at the next level. With 36-inch arms, top draft-eligible left tackle Russell Okung recorded a beastly 38 reps on the 225-pound bench to nix the notion that he might lack enough strength to be an immediate contributor in the running game.

Maryland OT Bruce Campbell, Clemson RB C.J. Spiller, Oklahoma OT Trent Williams, and Texas S Earl Thomas were other risers. Oklahoma TE Jermaine Gresham, Rutgers OT Anthony Davis, Ole Miss RB Dexter McCluster, and LSU WR Brandon LaFell may have sunk after disappointing testing or performance in drills. Florida TE Aaron Hernandez, Alabama LB Rolando McClain, Florida LB Brandon Spikes, and WR Dez Bryant opted out due to injury, leaving questions about their competitiveness and athleticism unanswered.

Ultimately, though, good teams don't place as large an emphasis on forty times and hand size as they do on film study, production, and character. Keeping in mind team-by-team trends, need areas, and player quality, here's our best guess as to how the top 32 will shake out on April 22nd.

1. St. Louis Rams - Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford

If ESPN's Adam Schefter believes something strongly enough to guarantee it publicly, we can usually take it to the bank. And the Bradford-to-St. Louis fit is pretty much ideal. Assuming his medical went smoothly, Bradford has likely moved to the top of GM Billy Devaney's board. The Rams, who haven't drafted a QB in the first round since 1967, are in search of an accurate, intelligent, and athletic passer. Bradford also is highly aggressive, evidenced by an incredible 9.41 career yards-per-attempt average. St. Louis' quick move to sign A.J. Feeley at the outset of free agency strongly indicates that he'll be the organization's "bridge" to Bradford.

2. Detroit Lions - Oklahoma State LT Russell Okung

While the Lions insist that Friday's acquisition of DT Corey Williams won't influence their selection at No. 2 overall, it gives GM Martin Mayhew options. A three-technique pass rusher, Williams is slated to start alongside promising nose tackle Sammie Lee Hill. Williams plays the same position that Ndamukong Suh or Gerald McCoy would in Detroit's 4-3. Protecting Matthew Stafford, who needed postseason knee surgery and played through a separated left shoulder during a rookie year in which he took too many hits, should now be Mayhew's top priority. The 2009 Big Twelve Offensive Lineman of the Year, Okung is the draft's most polished pass protector.

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Nebraska DT Ndamukong Suh

How about a statistical comparison between the draft's top defensive tackles over the last two seasons? Tackles: Suh - 161; Gerald McCoy - 64. Sacks: Suh - 19.5; McCoy - 12.5. Tackles for loss: Suh - 43; McCoy - 26.5. Yeah, McCoy was double teamed. So was Suh. Nebraska also uses a read-and-react system in which Suh's primary task was to keep action in front of him rather than knife up field. McCoy has always been a pure gap shooter. Clearly, Suh is the more productive player with better run-stopping ability. He would be an ideal pickup for Tampa Bay's league-worst run defense.

4. Washington Redskins - Oklahoma DT Gerald McCoy

Should the top three go as predicted, new Redskins coach Mike Shanahan will be left with two players worth serious consideration at No. 4: Jimmy Clausen and McCoy. Clausen's smarts and accuracy-arm strength combo would be great fits for Shanahan's West Coast style, but The Mastermind wants to win now, and drafting best player available -- particularly when it involves a position of immediate need -- is the best way to do it. Transitioning to a 3-4 scheme, the Skins are weak at both end spots with 37-year-old Phillip Daniels and underachiever Anthony Montgomery as projected starters. Coordinator Jim Haslett's 3-4 is aggressive, and would take advantage of McCoy's strengths as a pass rusher.

5. Kansas City Chiefs - Oklahoma State WR Dez Bryant

Bryant's absence from Combine workouts with a hamstring tweak was disappointing, but he may be the most physically gifted draft-eligible wideout since Calvin Johnson. Easily superior to Michael Crabtree in terms of size, leaping ability and deep-threat potential, Bryant is likely to rip up the track at his March 10 Pro Day. While Kansas City needs to strongly consider upgrading its front five in order to keep Matt Cassel upright, this year's depth at tackle and guard is tremendous. No incoming wide receiver holds a candle to Bryant, who draws deserved comparisons to Andre Johnson.

6. Seattle Seahawks - Notre Dame QB Jimmy Clausen

As Matt Hasselbeck enters a contract year at age 35, the Seahawks face lots of long-term uncertainty at quarterback. They are also rumored to be dangling backup Seneca Wallace, and we still wouldn't rule out a Hasselbeck draft-day trade to Cleveland. Clausen, who faced Pete Carroll's Trojans annually at Notre Dame, nearly led the Irish to a fourth-quarter comeback win over USC last season, throwing for 260 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. New offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates' successful history of young quarterback tutelage (e.g. Jay Cutler, Matt Barkley) should give Seattle confidence that Clausen would develop quickly.

7. Cleveland Browns - Tennessee S Eric Berry

Reaffirmed as the draft's premier defensive back by convincingly outdoing Joe Haden and Earl Thomas at the Combine, Berry blazed the track with a 4.47 forty and showed rare explosion on his jumps (10'10" broad, 43" vertical). Well-known players like Berry are often unfairly picked apart by evaluators in their final college seasons, but we've yet to find a flaw in Berry's game. The Browns need help at both cornerback and safety. Berry can cover the deep middle, support the run with a linebacker's mentality, and shut down slot receivers when opponents go three wide.

8. Oakland Raiders - Maryland LT Bruce Campbell

6'6", 314 pounds. The draft's longest arms (36 1/4"). 4.85 forty. These are the qualities Al Davis looks for in a prospect. Campbell's play doesn't match his underwear athleticism, but the Raiders have proved that they're more concerned with measurables than performance too many times for a workout wonder like Campbell to not rank high on Davis' draft board. Mario Henderson was a liability for most of last season, so Oakland should be in the market for a replacement.

9. Buffalo Bills - Oklahoma OT Trent Williams

Clausen falling to No. 9 would be a best-case scenario for the Bills, but that's unlikely. Behind quarterback, the team's biggest hole is at offensive tackle. Another Combine standout, Williams answered questions about his athleticism by posting the second fastest forty (4.88) and fifth best short-shuttle time (4.63) at his position. He also measured in at a solid 6'4 1/2" and 314 pounds with more-than-adequate 34 1/4" arms. Williams has a low ceiling, with Pro Bowl right tackle potential if he doesn't immediately dominate on the blind side. After the 2009 trade of LT Jason Peters and RT Brad Butler's surprise February retirement, Buffalo just needs warm bodies.

10. Jacksonville Jaguars - South Florida DE Jason Pierre-Paul

With Joe Haden out of the top-ten mix after a poor Combine, the Jags can refocus on their most pressing position: defensive end. This pick could easily come down to Pierre-Paul and 2009 ACC Defensive Player of the Year Derrick Morgan. Pierre-Paul offers through-the-roof upside, but played just one year at Division I. Morgan was productive throughout his three years at Georgia Tech and may be the safer pick. A team that set a franchise record low in sacks last year must continue to add pass rushers, even after the Aaron Kampman signing. Kampman, going on 31 and coming off a torn ACL, is unlikely to be a consistent threat until next season's halfway point.

11. Denver Broncos - Tennessee NT Dan Williams

The Broncos' plan of action when the free agency/trading period began Friday became clear immediately; they're upgrading their lines. They've shown interest in free agents Jarvis Green, Rex Hadnot, Jason Babin, and Kevin Mawae, signed DL Justin Bannan and praised his "versatility" as an end/nose tackle in a post-signing statement, and retained G/C Russ Hochstein. Denver's run defense was atrocious a year ago, and the NFL-ready Williams would be a big upgrade on the nose ahead of Ronald Fields. A Williams-Fields-Bannan-Ryan McBean rotation could keep blockers off ILB D.J. Williams and make the whole front seven competitive.

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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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