1. Detroit Lions: Jason Smith, OT, Baylor
Coming from Tennessee, Jim Schwartz knows the importance of a great offensive line, and he also knows that you can win with out a superstar-quality quarterback at the helm. After so many terrible drafts in the past, the Lions cannot afford to miss on this pick and Smith is less of a gamble than Stafford or Sanchez. Also, it is tough to give first overall money to an OLB, so Curry won’t be the pick. With Smith and Cherilus, the Lions would have two bookend tackles to stabilize the offense.
2. St. Louis Rams: Eugene Monroe, OT, Virginia
After releasing franchise tackle Orlando Pace this pick is a no-brainer, they will take the best available tackle. Aaron Curry might get a look here with Will Witherspoon moving from middle to outside linebacker, but I think LT is just too important a position to pass up.
3. Kansas City: Aaron Curry, LB, Wake Forest
The Chiefs defense was brutal last season, so they go ahead and take the best defensive player in the draft. Curry seems to be the consensus can’t-miss prospect this year, and he should immediately help their defense. Orakpo could be another option here as the Chiefs may be switching to a 3-4.
4. Seattle Seahawks: Matt Stafford, QB, Georgia
With Monroe and Smith both off the board, as well as Curry, the Seahawks may choose to go after their quarterback of the future. Hasselbeck is 33, and has struggled with nagging injuries for the past few seasons. Stafford has a ton of value here and is a great insurance policy for Hasselbeck this season, and going into the future.
5. Cleveland Browns: Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech
A lot of people have Brian Orakpo going to the Browns here, but I think Mangini will be hesitant to take a converted DE after what happened last year with Vernon Gholston. The Browns actually have a big need at WR after releasing Joe Jurevicius, and the legal trouble that Donte Stallworth is now in, not to mention Braylon Edwards and his hands of stone. Brady Quinn will need all the help he can get, especially with Kellen Winslow being traded, and Crabtree has solid hands and will get open for him consistently.
6. Cincinnati Bengals: B.J. Raji, DT, Boston College
Although the Bengals don’t necessarily have a huge need at DT, Raji is the best player available and should help them out more than any other player they could take here. The other option would be to trade down, but if they keep the pick, my guess is that it would be Raji.
7. Oakland Raiders: Brian Orakpo, DE, Texas
The Raiders got decent production from their ends last season, but they need a double-digit sack guy to put their line over the top. Orakpo could potentially be that guy, and is a freak athlete, which Al Davis seems to covet when drafting prospects.
8. Jacksonville Jaguars: Malcolm Jenkins, CB, Ohio St.
His speed has come into question, but he was a dominant corner in the NCAA and I think he will be a great corner in the NFL as well. Besides Rashean Mathis, the Jags don’t have much at corner, and they finished near the bottom of the league in pass defense this season.
9. Green Bay Packers: Tyson Jackson, DE, LSU
The Packers are switching to a 3-4 and they need players that fit that scheme, and Jackson definitely is a fit at defensive end. He should also help out against the run, which was a major issue for this defense last season.
10. San Francisco 49ers: Andre Smith, OT, Alabama
The Niners grab a top five prospect at the ten spot, and if any coach is going to keep Smith in line, it will be Mike Singeltary. Smith will be able to step in and take over for Jonas Jennings right away at right tackle, and then maybe slide over to left tackle eventually. He should help the run game out after they finished near the bottom of the pack last season.
11. Buffalo Bills: Michael Johnson, DE, Georgia Tech
The Bills pass rush was atrocious last season and they really need some help in that area. Michael Johnson is an explosive athlete, and I don’t think Mayock ripping him is going to prevent teams from taking him.
12. Denver Broncos: Rey Maualuga, ILB, USC
The Broncos are switching to a 3-4, and every 3-4 needs a stud inside linebacker to lead the unit. Maualuga is a big hitter, and was the emotional leader of college’s best defense at USC this season.
13. Washington Redskins: Everette Brown, DE, Florida St.
The Redskins lost two starting quality ends in Jason Taylor and Demetric Evans, and as it is, the Skins were one of the worst teams at sacking the quarterback last season. Brown was a monster down the stretch this season for the Seminoles, and he should get a lot of one-on-one match-ups with Haynesworth in the lineup.
14. New Orleans Saints: Brian Cushing, OLB, USC
With the signing of Jabari Greer, corner becomes less of a need, but I think the Saints will still go defense in the first round. The Saints are strong in the middle with Vilma, but their outside linebackers leave something to be desired. Cushing can come in and start right away and should be an upgrade over what they have.
15. Houston Texans: Vontae Davis, CB, Illinois
The Texans franchised Dunta Robinson so this pick is just in case they can’t afford to keep him at some point down the road. Davis is probably good enough to start for them right away as is opposite Robinson, or at the nickel.
16. San Diego Chargers: Michael Oher, OT, Ole Miss
The Chargers line did not play very well last season and the problem stems from the play of the right side. With Oher they have a solid starter at RT right away, as well as a player who elevates the talent level of the entire line.
17. New York Jets: Mark Sanchez, QB, USC
Barring a potential Jay Cutler trade the Jets will look to find a franchise pivot here, like Sanchez. With Joe Flacco having so much success as a rookie in Baltimore, Rex Ryan won’t hesitate to go after another young QB.
18. Chicago Bears: Jeremy Maclin, WR, Missouri
Yes, the Bears have lost a lot of pieces from last seasons’ offensive line, but they took a tackle in the first round last year, Chris Williams, so there is no need to take a right tackle or guard at this spot. They need to upgrade their skill positions, especially at wide receiver, and Maclin is the best one available.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Peria Jerry, DT, Ole Miss
The Bucs run defense fell apart towards the end of the year, and it cost them a playoff spot. With the release of both of their starting OLB, they could look to fill that position, but they are also very weak at DT. Jerry should plug up the middle and allow the linebackers to make plays.
20. Detroit Lions: Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Oklahoma St.
The Lions make another safe pick, but Pettigrew is a player who you know will help you out right away in the passing and running game. CB, DE, and LB could also be an option, as well as Josh Freeman, but its too early for corner Alphonso Smith, they have a similar DE to Larry English in Cliff Avril, and they have loaded up on LB in free agency and through trades.
21. Philadelphia Eagles: Eben Britton, OT, Arizona
With William Thomas moving on to the Jags, and Jon Runyan having offseason surgery, there are some question marks at the tackle going into next year. Britton could solve some of those issues, and slide into one of the starting slots right away.
22. Minnesota Vikings: Alphonso Smith, CB, Wake Forest
Smith has been knocked for his size, but the Vikes already have an undersized corner in Antoine Winfield and he has been playing at a Pro Bowl level for the past few seasons. They take a chance with Smith who has great ball skills and should come in and compete for a starting spot right away.
23. New England Patriots: Larry English, DE/OLB, Northern Illinois
This pick could be traded to the Panthers for Julius Peppers, but for now I have them taking a player who would fill a similar role. Their linebacking corps needs an injection of youth, and English can provide that as well as a ton of athleticism.
24. Atlanta Falcons: Clay Matthews, OLB, USC
The Falcons lost both of their starting OLB to free agency, and have only brought in LB Mike Peterson to replace them. Matthews is athletic and should help to offset the losses, as well as get after it in the pass rush.
25. Miami Dolphins: Aaron Maybin, DE/OLB, Penn St.
Besides Porter, the Dolphins didn’t generate much pass rush last season. Maybin is a converted end who should be able to make the transition to OLB. The Dolphins have done a good job of filling there needs through free agency, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see anyone go here.
26. Baltimore Ravens: Percy Harvin, WR, Florida
The Ravens did a good job of shoring up their holes at corner and center, as well as bringing back Suggs and Lewis. I think that the Ravens will go offense again in the first round with the versatile Harvin. With few needs, though, I could see Newsome trading this pick, either up or down, because the Ravens always seem to dictate the draft in their favour to get the player they like.
27. Indianapolis Colts: Knowshon Moreno, RB, Georgia
Most teams are switching to a two-back system, and it has proven to be very successful. Dominic Rhodes was not even close to the player he was for the Colts in their championship run, and Addai was banged up for most of the year. Moreno is extremely good value here, and seems like a character guy who would fit in nicely on the Colts.
28. Philadelphia Eagles: Kenny Britt, WR, Rutgers
The Eagles have several needs they could fill at this spot, and there is always the option that they trade back. McNabb has clamored his need for more offensive weapons, and Britt has really improved his stock of late and should make an immediate impact.
29. New York Giants: Hakeem Nicks, WR, North Carolina
The Giants offense was not the same without Plaxico Burress, and seems as though his legal trouble will keep him out for the year. Nicks should help out right away, and gives them a number one-type guy who can take some of the pressure off their other receivers.
30. Tennessee Titans: Ron Brace, DT, Boston College
The Titans need big bodies to make-up for the loss of Albert Haynesworth. Before the combine, most people had only Jerry and Raji going in the first, but I think that we could see guys like Brace and Hood slipping into the first like I have here.
31. Arizona Cardinals: Chris ‘Beanie’ Wells, RB, Ohio St.
Whisenhunt and company can’t believe a prospect like Wells falls to them here, but they would definitely pull the trigger if he were available. With James and Arrington moving on, they need someone who help out Hightower, who doesn’t seem ready to be an every-down back. LeSean McCoy could also be an option here too because Wells and Hightower have somewhat similar styles.
32. Pittsburgh Steelers: Duke Robinson, OG, Oklahoma
The Steelers offensive line wasn’t the same after losing Faneca, although they did a nice job in the playoffs. Bottom line is that they need to address the inside of their line, and get more physical in the running game, which has been a staple of Steeler football. Robinson is a physical mauler, who should fit in nicely.