Gonzo's Pre-Combine NFL Mock Draft

As promised, ladies and gentlemen, here it is.  What actually happens on 28 and 29 April will probably be drastically different from this, but it's always fun to put together a first guess at this sort of stuff.  So, I hope you enjoy it, and I hope it opens up a bit of discussion on the draft front.

In the meantime, I hope that all of you out there and all of your significant others are having an outstanding Valentine's Day. . .and don't forget to celebrate National Half-Priced Heart-Shaped Candy Day tomorrow as well!

Player Power Rankings
Pick

Team

Selection Commentary
1 Detroit Lions Andre Smith, OT, Alabama Man. . .the Lions could go just about anywhere with this pick, couldn't they?  The prevailing logic is that they'll take Georgia QB Matthew Stafford here, but I think the Lions NEED a hit here, and no QB is going to be an immediate hit in Detroit unless they address the offensive line first.  Smith is huge, and is the consensus best OT in the draft at this moment in time, so he goes here.  We'll have to see what the draft holds for the Lions later as far as the QB situation.
2 St. Louis Rams Michael Oher, OT, Mississippi This draft is VERY top heavy at offensive tackle. . .which is a good thing for the Rams, because their offensive line was terrible in 2008.  Marc Bulger got bounced around like a pinball, and what used to be the "Greatest Show on Turf" ground to a halt.  They'd consider Michael Crabtree here, I think, but their offensive line has to be their top priority.  I'm not sure how the OTs will shake out at this point, but I'm really rooting for Oher to go high. . .and if you've read Michael Lewis' The Blind Side, you are, too.
3 Kansas City Chiefs Everette Brown, DE, Florida State I believe the Matthew Stafford watch starts at this slot.  Will new Chiefs' head coach Todd Haley be as sold on. . .ugh. . .former Viking Tyler Thigpen to pass on Stafford here?  Given what Thigpen did last year, I actually think he will be.  That means Kansas City will look to help their defense, and they could do much worse than Everette Brown.  Brown had a monster season for the Seminoles in 2008 (13.5 sacks, 21.5 TFL).  He's not the biggest guy, but he knows how to get to the quarterback. . .and, for a Chiefs' team that registered a total of 10 sacks last year, that's just what the doctor ordered.
4 Seattle Seahawks Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech You know who the Seahawks' leading receiver was in 2008?  Rookie TE John Carlson, who led the team in receptions (55), yards (627), and touchdowns (5).  Between that and the injuries to Matt Hasselbeck, the Seattle offense was a mess, averaging 18.4 points/game.  Enter Crabtree, who (in my opinion) is the best overall football player in this year's draft.  If the Seahawks can get the rest of their receivers healthy and keep Matt Hasselbeck upright, they could see a dramatic turnaround in 2009.
5 Cleveland Browns Brian Orakpo, DE, Texas One of the more disappointing teams of the 2008 season, the Browns main problem was the fact that their front seven got manhandled on a regular basis, despite a huge season from newcomer Shaun Rogers.  I'm not sure whether the Browns will be playing a 3-4 or a 4-3 under new coach Eric Mangini, but Orakpo will be able to help them either way.  Only the Chiefs had fewer sacks in 2008 than Cleveland's total of 17, and Orakpo could change that from either the DE spot in a 4-3 or the OLB spot in a 3-4.
6 Cincinnati Bengals Eugene Monroe, OT, Virginia The Bengals are another team with a whole lot of needs, but you'd have to think they'd do something to try to boost the lowest-scoring offense in the NFL last season.  Yeah, the injury to Carson Palmer was a big part of that, but their offensive line is a mess.  Eugene Monroe is another of the extremely talented offensive tackles that will go early in this draft, and he'll do a lot to protect the blindside of Palmer or Ryan Fitzpatrick or Boomer Esiason or whoever else is going to end up at QB in Cincy.  Given the likelihood of the Bengals losing T.J. Houshmanzadeh and the unpredictability of the Ocho Cinco circus, protection and stability will be at a premium in the Queen City.
7 Oakland Raiders Aaron Curry, LB, Wake Forest The good folks at Drafttek actually have Curry going #1 overall, so this would be a pretty good pick for the Raiders if they could get him here.  Then again, with Al Davis at the helm, lord only knows where this pick is headed.  Still, Curry is everything that Davis would love in a linebacker. . .he's big, he's fast, and he won the Butkus Award in 2008 as the top linebacker in college football.  There are other spots the Raiders could look towards here. . .offensive tackle, inside linebacker, wide receiver (only if Crabtree falls, which is doubtful). . .but Curry would be about the safest pick the silver and black could make.
8 Jacksonville Jaguars Jason Smith, OT, Baylor I really, really wanted to put Matthew Stafford here, but I think the Jags will give David Garrard a chance to rebound in 2009 and don't want a high-profile youngster adding any pressure here.  So, to that end, Jacksonville grabs another of this draft's big offensive tackles to keep Garrard upright.  Jack Del Rio might take a long, hard look at LB Ray Malaluga, but if he wants any chance of keeping his job after 2009, he has to recognize that something needs to be done with the Jags' offense.
9 Green Bay Packers Malcolm Jenkins, CB, Ohio State The Packers are, inexplicably, making the transition to the 3-4 defense next season, and there really isn't anyone worth the 9th overall pick that can help them much in this scenario, so they'll look to fix a secondary that got torched with great regularity towards the end of the regular season.  Jenkins has the size and physicality that the Packers look for in their corners, and this move will allow either Charles Woodson or Al Harris to move permanently to safety rather than shifting people around constantly.
10 San Francisco 49ers Matthew Stafford, QB, Georgia If Stafford's drop doesn't end here, it could get to Aaron Rodgers levels of catastrophic.  I know that quarterback might not be the most pressing need that the Niners have, but you're also not going to convince me that they're sold on the combination of Alex Smith, J.T. O'Sullivan, and Shaun Hill, either.  After getting burned by Smith, it might be hard for the Niners to pull the trigger on a QB here, but I think Stafford would be an outstanding pick for them.
11 Buffalo Bills Tyson Jackson, DE, Louisiana State The Bills will likely address their defensive front seven with this selection.  They could look at one of the two dynamic linebackers from Southern Cal. . .the aforementioned Malaluga and/or Brian Cushing. . .but I think that DE is a more pressing need for them, and Tyson Jackson is one of the more interesting players in this draft.  He's a big defensive end, weighing in at 290 pounds, but he does a pretty good job of pressuring the opposing quarterback.  Jackson is definitely someone to keep an eye on workout-wise in Indianapolis, and I think he'd be a good pick for the Bills here.
12 Denver Broncos Rey Maualuga, LB, Southern California Maualuga is a certified bad-ass, and is the kind of physical presence that the Broncos need in their front seven.  With the Broncos also making the transition to the 3-4 next season, they need linebackers that can get out and make plays, and nobody in this class fits that description better than Maualuga.  He's similar to E.J. Henderson in the sense that when he hits somebody, they stay hit.  Has some character issues in his past, but he appears to be beyond those now, and would be a great addition to a Denver defense that really needs a shot in the arm.
13 Washington Redskins Peria Jerry, DT, Mississippi The Redskins' defense had some trouble getting to the quarterback in 2008, and although they'd love for a defensive end to drop to them at this spot, nobody that's left in this scenario appears to be worth this pick as of now.  Jerry managed to rack up 18 TFL and 7 sacks as a senior despite battling ankle problems all season, and really stood out at the Senior Bowl a couple of weeks back.  Extremely high motor player, and would help the Redskins' defense immediately.
14 New Orleans Saints James Laurinaitis, LB, Ohio State The Saints could go pretty much anywhere on defense with this selection. . .their offense is about as good as it gets. . .and with Jonathan Vilma more than likely leaving the Crescent City, they have a hole in the middle of that defense that needs to be filled.  Enter Laurinaitis, son of former wrestling star Road Warrior Animal, to do just that.  He might not be quite at Maualuga's level as far as inside backers in this class go, but he's no slouch, either, and probably would have been a Top 10 selection in 2008 had he declared.
15 Houston Texans Vontae Davis, CB, Illinois The Texans, like the Saints, are pretty well set on offense, but have some holes to patch on their defense.  And if Dunta Robinson leaves via free agency, one of those holes will turn into a crater.  Davis is a junior that came out early for this year's draft after starting all 36 games of his career for the Fighting Illini.  He's got all the physical tools to be an elite NFL corner, but scouts often wonder whether or not his head is in the right place all the time.  There are other corners the Texans could look at here, but based solely on physical ability, Davis would be the choice here.
16 San Diego Chargers B.J. Raji, DT, Boston College The Chargers seem to be anticipating that Igor Olshansky will be leaving via the free agent route in a couple of weeks, and they'll need someone to replace him on their defensive line.  At 6'1" and 325 pounds, Raji can generously be described as "friggin' huge," and had an equally huge senior year after missing 2007 for academic reasons.  The usually stout Charger defense sputtered a bit in 2008, and if they could plug an in-shape and motivated Raji in there, they could return to prominence with the return of Shawne Merriman in 2009.
17 New York Jets Mark Sanchez, QB, Southern California There's no way the Jets are sold on Kellen Clemens.  None.  If they were, they wouldn't have felt compelled to bring the Brett Favre circus to town last season.  Now, Favre has officially retired from the game, and Clemens is all the Jets have left at the QB spot.  Enter Mark Sanchez to compete for and, in all likelihood, win the quarterback job in 2009.  He may have only started a handful of games at USC, but he's got a lot of talent and should be able to step into the Jets' offense straight away.
18 Chicago Bears Jeremy Maclin, WR, Missouri This would be a dream for Bears' fans, as Maclin would give them what they used to have in Devin Hester. . .an immediate threat on special teams, as well as someone that could gradually work his way into the offense as a receiver.  Hester was decent as a receiver last year, but completely fell off the map in the return game  Adding Maclin would allow Hester to concentrate on either one role or the other, and would give the Bears an immediate upgrade at two spots.  They could also be looking safety here, but if Maclin falls to this spot, I don't see any way the Bears pass him up.
19 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Percy Harvin, WR, Florida With Antonio Bryant a candidate to leave this off-season. . .and even if he stays in town. . .the Bucs need another wide receiver.  Joey Galloway was basically non-existent in 2008, and the Bucs didn't have the deep threat their offense needs.  While Harvin might not be a great wide receiver right away, he is a dynamic player and would make some impact in the offense, as well as on special teams.  The Bucs would also probably love for Sanchez to fall to this spot since Jeff Garcia is more than likely not coming back, but they appear to like Josh Johnson, who they drafted last season.
20 Detroit Lions (from Dallas) Brian Cushing, LB, Southern California This might seem a bit low for Cushing, but I can't see anywhere before this spot that he's going to go, to be honest.  Cushing has been outstanding for the Trojans the past couple of seasons, and would likely be an immediate starter for the Lions.  The biggest knock on him is his durability, as he had a lot of injury woes early on in his college career.  He hasn't had them the past couple of years, though, and if he can stay healthy, he'll be quite the steal for Detroit at this spot.
21 Philadelphia Eagles Knowshon Moreno, RB, Georgia Yes, we all know that Brian Westbrook is one of the NFL's great backs.  It also seems like he's injured every week. . .not bad enough to sit out most games, mind you, but it has to bring a bit of instability to the Eagles' offense.  While Correll Buckhalter is a decent back, Moreno has the talent and the ability to be something special.  He's similar to Westbrook in that he's not the biggest guy out there, but he's got great instincts and vision.  With two first-round picks, the Eagles can afford to take a guy like Moreno here. . or with their second pick, if he's still available.
22 Minnesota Vikings Alex Mack, C, California I'm not going to lie to you, folks. . .I agonized over this pick.  I really did.  I really, REALLY wanted to pull the trigger on Josh Freeman here, and while it would have been a glamour pick that made a big splash, the reality is that it won't matter who's at quarterback for the Vikings next year if we don't fix the offensive line.  So, I make this pick based on the assumption that Matt Birk is not going to be around. . .and, from all appearances, Mack is Matt Birk v2.0.  He's got size and, more importantly, he's got smarts.  He was the winner of the Draddy Award this past season, which is known as the "academic Heisman" and is given to college football's best scholar-athlete.  He's a hard worker, a great leader. . .basically, he's everything you'd look for in a guy you'd want to anchor the offensive line for the next decade.  Yeah, not the most glamorous pick the Beloved Purple could make, but it's one that I think we'll be reaping the benefits of for a long time.
23 New England Patriots Alphonso Smith, CB, Wake Forest While the Patriots have always managed to put together a pretty decent front seven, their secondary is basically held together by duct tape and chicken wire.  Smith reminds some people of Antoine Winfield. . .he's not the biggest guy on the field (he's only 5'9"), but he's not afraid to stick his nose into the play and get physical against the run despite his size limitations.  He also has the added dimension of being an outstanding return man.
24 Atlanta Falcons Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Oklahoma State Atlanta's three main tight ends had a combined total of 19 receptions in 2008.  QB Matt Ryan had a great season, to be sure, and I can't imagine how much better he could be if he had a target like Pettigrew in the middle of the field.  He's huge (6'6", 280) and is a very good blocker as well as a good pass receiver.  He's had some character issues, and it might be too soon after the Vick incident to go after a guy like that in Atlanta, but if he's beyond those issues, Pettigrew would be a very good pick for the Falcons.
25 Miami Dolphins Aaron Maybin, LB, Penn State Maybin declared for this year's draft after only two seasons in Happy Valley. . .he was a redshirt sophomore. . .but he's coming off a big year for the Nittany Lions, having racked up 20 TFL and 12 sacks in 2008.  He'd be a great fit as an outside linebacker in the Dolphins' 3-4 scheme.  His one downside is the fact that he's not a big guy, weighing in at only about 235 pounds, and he's pretty raw, but the Dolphins would be getting a great talent if Maybin were to drop this far.
26 Baltimore Ravens D.J. Moore, CB, Vanderbilt We know how great the Ravens' safeties are, but their cornerbacks (Chris McAlister and Samari Rolle) can't stay healthy. . .in fact, neither of their starters were available for this year's AFC Championship game.  Both of those players are also getting a little long in the tooth, and it's getting time for them to be replaced.  Moore is another smaller CB (5'10", 180), and isn't quite as physical as Alphonso Smith, who went a few picks earlier, but he's the best fit for the Ravens at this point in this scenario.
27 Indianapolis Colts Chris Wells, RB, Ohio State Surprised, are you?  Well, I'm going to let you in on a bit of a secret. . .Joseph Addai?  Not that good a running back.  What the Colts really need more than anything is a defensive tackle (or two or three), but there's nobody here worth a first-round selection, so the Colts would be well-served to upgrade themselves at the running back spot here.  Wells is a big back that could immediately start in the Colts' backfield.  They could also look to the WR spot here, too, or even a corner, but if I were the Colts in this situation, Wells would be my pick.
28 Philadelphia Eagles (from Carolina) Max Unger, OL, Oregon Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan aren't getting any younger, and Winston Justice is. . .well, just bad. . .the Eagles need to do something to upgrade their offensive line with their second first round selection.  Unger is an extremely versatile lineman, and has been projected as both a center and a right tackle at the NFL level.  With Runyan more than likely leaving Philly, Unger would probably step in at RT.  Shame for the Panthers that they don't still have this pick. . .after Jake Delhomme's playoff performance, they sure could use Josh Freeman, couldn't they?
29 New York Giants Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Maryland Amani Toomer has been told that he's not going to be back in 2009, and who the heck knows what's going on with Plaxico Burress from one day to the next?  The Giants are going to need some help at the wide receiver position next season. . .as it stands now, their #1 guy is "Not That" Steve Smith.  Heyward-Bey has great size and speed, and would be able to develop a decent rapport with Eli Manning in the Giants' offense.  The Giants could look for outside linebacker help here, too, but they're be better off looking there in Round 2, I think.
30 Tennessee Titans Clint Sintim, LB, Virginia Another team that could use WR help, there's nobody here that fits the bill, unless they want to reach for someone like Kenny Britt or Hakeem Nicks.  There's no real DT help at this point should Albert Haynesworth leave, either.  So, the Titans appear to be in "best player available" mode, and at this point, Sintim is that guy.  He's a prototype strong-side linebacker with good size and speed, and would be a big help to an already great Tennessee defense.
31 Arizona Cardinals Larry English, DE, Northern Illinois The Cardinals would love for either Moreno or Wells to fall here, but in this scenario that's not happening.  With the hybrid 3-4 scheme that the Cardinals like to run, pass rushers are always a welcome addition, and English is one of the best out there.  He racked up 32.5 sacks and 57 TFL over his career at NIU, and will have to shift to an outside linebacker position in the NFL.  They have Bert Berry and Chike Okeafor, but English could be a big difference maker if he can transition from a smaller conference to the NFL.
32 Pittsburgh Steelers Eben Britton, OT, Arizona What do you get for the team that has everything?  Well, three of the Steelers' main offensive line pieces are set to hit the open market in free agency this off-season, so the offensive line is probably a good place to start.  While Britton isn't one of the "elite" tackle prospects, he's a solid player that could make an immediate contribution for the Steelers as they defend their World Championship in 2009.  They could also look for corner help, too, if someone catches their eye in Indianapolis.

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