With the NFL Draft tomorrow, it’s time to start with Pro Football 101’s mock draft. Picks 1-10.
1. Detroit Lions: QB Matt Stafford
Although we’re not as sold on Stafford as others—see Mel Kiper of ESPN— the Lions have all but tipped their hand that this is the way they’re going to go. And sitting at No. 1, coming off an 0-16 season, their expectations are quite reasonable for 2009.
With the ability to bring Stafford along slowly, this will help to avoid another Joey Harrington debacle, and WR Calvin Johnson can aid anyone’s development. Ask Dan Orlovsky.
2. St. Louis Rams: LT Jason Smith
It’s Steve Spagnuolo’s first draft, so you can pretty much expect him to focus on the defense throughout the draft. But not at the No. 2 pick. Releasing longtime standout Orlando Pace in the off-season left a huge void along the left side of the line, and Smith could be an absolute fixture at the LT position for the next decade.
3. Kansas City Chiefs: LB Aaron Curry
Curry’s been predicted here ever since the mock drafts began back in February, and that’s exactly where his name will be called when the Chiefs are on the clock this Saturday.
Although a pass-rushing DE is a need for Kansas City (they only managed 10 sacks in 2008), Curry provides too much value at No. 3 and could have a very big impact if Scott Pioli’s coaches employ their linebackers as they did when he was with the Patriots.
4. Seattle Seahawks: QB Mark Sanchez
The rumors of the Seahawks’ interest in Sanchez could just be that. Rumors. But if there’s truth to what’s being thrown around, then it does make sense. Matt Hasselbeck’s 33 and coming off an injury-ravaged year, and Seattle does needs to start thinking about his replacement.
With at least another solid year or two left in Hasselbeck, this could be the perfect opportunity to allow Sanchez to sit until 2010, when experts predicted that he would’ve battled it out for the top pick in that draft with Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford.
5. Cleveland Browns: DE/LB Brian Orakpo
As tempting as it might be to grab QB Mark Sanchez if he’s still on the board with this pick, and this has been rumored all week, it’d probably take at least three years to begin seeing the desired results.
Unfortunately for Eric Mangini, after purging his roster of some of its more established talent via trade—and WR Donte’ Stallworth’s future is up in the air after he killed someone in Miami—three years is too long to wait.
Look for the Browns to target the defense at five; Orakpo’s relentless motor will help bring a pass rush back to Cleveland.
6. Cincinnati Bengals: LT Eugene Monroe
The Bengals are a team full of holes, but one area of particular importance is on the offensive line, where they lost Stacey Andrews in free agency.
With QB Carson Palmer sustaining a few major injuries over the past few seasons, it’s important for this team to do what they can to keep their franchise QB’s jersey clean. Monroe is the pick.
7. Oakland Raiders: WR Jeremy Maclin
While WR Michael Crabtree is the more polished receiver and should be the first receiver off the board, Al Davis is in love with speed. And with some of his recent personnel decisions, you’d think that he’s on it.
Maclin provides the big play ability that the Raiders were sorely missing after the WR Javon Walker debacle in 2008. He will be the deep threat to haul in JaMarcus Russell’s 60-yard bombs.
8. Jacksonville Jaguars: OT Andre Smith
Rumors have the Jaguars desperately trying to trade out of this pick, but in the event they can’t, look for them to solidify their line after last year’s implosion to this unit.
The main reason why the Jaguars regressed in 2008 was because three-fifths of the line went out early, so they were unable to run the football and pass protect adequately. Smith should be able to help with that.
9. Green Bay Packers: DT B.J. Raji
The Packers got greedy in 2008 and dealt young DT Corey Williams to the Browns for a second rounder. The move backfired. They were unable to provide the inside pressure that Williams helped provide the previous year, and the result was a 5-11 season just one year after going 13-3 and advancing within one game of the Super Bowl.
Look for the Pack to land Raji at No. 9 and strengthen the interior of its defense.
10. San Francisco 49ers: WR Michael Crabtree
The ‘Niners couldn’t ask for better luck than to find Crabtree sitting on the board at this pick. The top-rated receiver in the draft—and player by some—he’d give the ‘Niners the offensive explosiveness they’ve been lacking and allow them to stretch the field once again.
While he’s not as fast as the top speed receivers in the draft, he does have the best hands. And who knows, perhaps he can teach former first-round blocking TE Vernon Davis how to catch the ball, which would make the ‘Niners a force to be reckoned with in the NFC West.