This is the initial Round 1 mock draft that Real Football Services is filing exclusively for newyorkjets.com.
All of you draftniks out there who live for this time of year have probably examined every mock draft available. Those of you not included in that group have at least been following the NFL reports on ESPN and have heard all about Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford securing the top spot in the draft.
We don't agree. Now, we speak to all the same people that the more well known analysts and talking heads use as sources, and we hear all the same stories. So we are well aware that in all likelihood Bradford's name is going to lead off the Thursday night draft festivities. But instead of giving you a rehashed version of something you've already seen or heard 100 times, we're going to provide a different look at this year's draft class.
Over the last five years, three QBs have been selected first overall in the draft. The verdict is still out on Matthew Stafford, but he didn't get through a quarter of the season before getting hurt, and hopefully he'll improve on his 13 TDs, 20 INTs and 53 percent completion rate as the Lions get more talent around him. The other two, JaMarcus Russell and Alex Smith — enough said.
The one tackle taken with the first pick was Jake Long to the Dolphins in 2008. All he's done is start all 32 games in his career and go to the Pro Bowl. Obviously every player is different, but the recent history of success in taking a QB No. 1 is marginal at best.
Mock it (pun intended), ridicule it, criticize it, but also take notice of how one change among the top picks can completely alter the face of the first round and affect the futures of so many young players.
1. St Louis — Russell Okung, T, Oklahoma State
If A.J. Feeley is going to start the season, then we're more likely to agree with taking the QB here. But you can't drop a rookie into this Rams offense that has limited weapons and can't protect the QB. Okung is athletic, tall, with long arms and a quick first step in pass protection. He's not a strong drive blocker in the run game, but he is a competitor, has a great attitude and work ethic, and is sure to be a long-time starter in the league. The added bonus is if last year's No. 1, Jason Smith, develops into a left tackle, Okung can also play the right side. This puts the cornerstones in place for the Rams offense.
2. Detroit — Ndamukong Suh, DT, Nebraska
We've heard that the Lions will go with an offensive tackle here if Okung falls to them, but in this scenario they continue to build their defense under head coach and former Titans defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. In Tennessee, he had the dangerous combo of Vanden Bosch and Haynesworth. He's signed Vanden Bosch, and now Suh is his new Haynesworth. The most productive player on one of the nation's best defenses in 2009, Suh had over 75 tackles behind the line of scrimmage during his career.
3. Tampa Bay — Gerald McCoy, DT, Oklahoma
McCoy falls a little short in comparisons to Suh because he wasn't as productive in terms of big plays, or even tackles, but he was surrounded by playmakers on the Sooners defense. He brings all the same tools as Suh, and like his fellow DT, he is versatile enough to play inside or outside, in any system, and is an ideal fit in the Tampa scheme as a 3-technique tackle in the Warren Sapp mold. He's a high-character guy who will add to what is becoming a competitive group of young Buccaneers defensive linemen.
4. Washington — Trent Williams, T, Oklahoma
It'll be awfully tough for Mike Shanahan and company to leave Bradford on the board here, but the acquisition of Donovan McNabb makes LT a much more pressing need, especially in light of the retirement of Chris Samuels. Williams is actually a better fit for the Redskins' zone-blocking scheme than even Okung.
5. Kansas City — Brian Bulaga, T, Iowa
Chiefs GM Scott Pioli is the son-in-law of Bill Parcells and a disciple of Bill Belichick. So that means adding solid, fundamentally sound players and building the roster from the line out. There are better players on the board right now, and we know that the Chiefs like Eric Berry, but the fact that Bulaga was coached by Pioli's good friend Kirk Ferentz and has the smarts and versatility to play both tackle spots and guard makes him the smart pick here.
6, Seattle — Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma
Matt Hasselbeck's days are numbered and the book is still unwritten on Charlie Whitehurst. Bradford can hold the clipboard for a while and learn the NFL game without having to step in as a starter. Again, the Seahawks have more pressing needs, but with two first-round picks and three in the first 60, this is a pick they can afford to spend. Expect Seattle to be active in the trade market to pick up even more picks and maybe even unload one of those veteran QBs.
7. Cleveland — Eric Berry, S, Tennessee
The Browns' need at corner isn't quite as pressing with the addition of Sheldon Brown, but Berry is a versatile player who can play any position in the secondary. He has great range as a centerfielder at safety, has the zone awareness to play cloud coverage, possesses the man cover skills to line up in the slot or outside the numbers, and is a sound tackler and willing run defender.
8. Oakland — Jimmy Clausen, QB, Notre Dame
The Raiders would not be a bad team, if only they had a QB. Clausen needs to get healthy and fix some shortcomings with his technique, but overall, he is everything that JaMarcus Russell is not. He's a fiery, emotional leader who demands the most out of his teammates. He's smart and can play in any offense, knows how to read defenses and is a tough competitor. He's all football player, which is something the Raiders need.
9. Buffalo — Anthony Davis, T, Rutgers
The Bills are another team in need of a QB, but like the Rams, they need to build an offensive line first. Davis has great size, strength and ability. If Chan Gailey can keep him motivated, he has the talent to be a cornerstone tackle.
10. Jacksonville — Derrick Morgan, DE, Georgia Tech
The Jaguars have a full roster of DEs, but the young recent draft picks have not been terribly productive, and Aaron Kampman is coming off major knee surgery and we don't think he'll be an immediate answer to the Jags' pass rush woes. Morgan had 31 plays behind the line of scrimmage last season, is an underrated run defender, and has a high football IQ. Given the chance, expect Jacksonville to try to trade down for a chance to draft an OLB or interior lineman.
11. Denver — Rolando McClain, ILB, Alabama
The Broncos used free agency to rebuild their D-line, and now they use the draft to improve the second level. McClain is the highest-rated player on our board and fills a need for Denver. An aggressive downhill run defender and a viable interior pass rush threat, he will be protected by big Jamal Williams, which will cover up some of his weaknesses.
12. Miami — Brandon Graham, OLB, Michigan
Parcells has always been a linebacker guy at heart (he also loves the Big Ten), and given the chance to plug in the player who led the nation with 26 tackles for loss in 2009 and earned MVP honors at the Senior Bowl, he will jump. The Tuna loves hardworking, versatile guys who produce. Graham, a college DE, had 10 sacks last year and has the ability to convert to LB in Miami's 3-4. Some mocks will place him with the Giants or Atlanta, but his best fit is in a 30 front.
13. San Francisco — Earl Thomas, S, Texas
The Niners have a pressing need at RT, but with the top four tackles off the board, they look to address their defense with this pick. Thomas can step in right away at safety, which will give him some time to tighten up his man cover skills for a potential move to corner at the NFL level.
14. Seattle — C.J. Spiller, RB, Clemson
While the Seahawks' first pick won't contribute right away, Spiller will make up for that with his ability to make plays as a runner, receiver and returner. The comparisons are oversimplified, but he really is Pete Carroll's new Reggie Bush. The selection of Bradford could give Seattle a chance to pull off a trade of Hasselbeck, which could yield the picks needed to address needs at T and DE before pick No. 60, which is when they select next.
15. New York Giants — Sean Weatherspoon, LB, Missouri
Though Weatherspoon's grade makes him a bit of a reach here, the Giants need to fill Antonio Pierce's shoes, and the presence of the LB-hungry Falcons at 19 makes this pick a necessity. Weatherspoon is a productive downhill run defender who attacks the ballcarrier with the speed to chase down plays from sideline to sideline and the range to drop deep in coverage, which will be key in Perry Fewell's new defensive scheme.
16. Tennessee — Joe Haden, CB, Florida
The Titans might be surprised to see Haden here, and though they need a DE and an OLB, corner is a definite need and Haden has the cover skills and versatility to step in across from Cortland Finnegan and play right away. He's an excellent man cover corner with quickness, a smooth hip turn, great closing speed and a nose for the ball. He was also a standout on special teams.
17. San Francisco — Sergio Kindle, OLB, Texas
Kindle is a high-energy player who can play special teams and is ideally built to fill the OLB role in the 49ers' 3-4 scheme. A strong run defender with the quickness to run with TEs in coverage on the seam, he had 15½ sacks and 44 plays behind the line the past two seasons. There are some off-the-field concerns, but Mike Singletary is the guy who can straighten the youngster out.
18. Pittsburgh — Kyle Wilson, CB, Boise State
The Steelers are typically a best-player-available team, and we still have NT Dan Williams and O-lineman Mike Iupati on the board, both of whom could help them. But with the revitalization of the passing game in the AFC North, the Steelers need someone with Wilson's press cover skills on the corner.
19. Atlanta — Maurkice Pouncey, C, Florida
The Falcons would have liked to find an OLB or a pass-rushing end here, but Pouncey is the best center in the draft and fills a definite need. He will be one of those 10-year starters and they can find some legitimate pass-rush options like Murray State's Austin Lane when they go back on the clock in the third round.
20. Houston — Dan Williams, DT, Tennessee
When you play against Peyton Manning twice a year, you need a pair of very good corners, especially when you lose Dunta Robinson in free agency. But when the division-opponent Jaguars and Titans plan to run the ball 25-plus times per game, you also need to finally solidify the D-line, which is what the Texans will do here with most of the top corners off the board. Though Williams is typically slotted as a 3-4 nose due to his size (327 pounds), he can be a force in a 4-3 system due to his quickness and strength. He'll be great protection for the young LB corps and will free up Mario Williams and Antonio Smith on the edges.
21. Cincinnati — Taylor Mays, S, Southern Cal
With two solid cover corners in the secondary, Mays will get a chance to do what he does best: play center field in a deep zone scheme. Though some question his playmaking ability and technique in coverage, he has unique size and speed and great physical tools that can be molded by DC Mike Zimmer.
22. New England — Jerry Hughes, OLB, Texas Christian
The Patriots' biggest issue is their lack of a pass rush and this guy knows how to do that. A college DE, he recorded 26½ sacks in two seasons. He'll move to OLB in the pros and Bill Belichick will love his willingness to play special teams, his fiery attitude and his stellar work ethic.
23. Green Bay — Mike Iupati, G, Idaho
The top player left on our board, Iupati could step in as a starter at guard right away for the Pack, and there are some who think he can even excel as a tackle. He's strong and athletic and plays with a mean streak. He's Steve Hutchinson re-born.
24. Philadelphia — Devin McCourty, CB, Rutgers
With Sheldon Brown gone and the Eagles still trying to find Brian Dawkins' replacement, they need to rebuild their secondary. McCourty is an effective press corner but is at his best in zone coverages. He brings added value as a return man and all-around special teams player.
25. Baltimore — Jermaine Gresham, TE, Oklahoma
Todd Heap is not getting any younger, and Gresham has the speed to get vertical and be a threat on the seam, especially with the weapons the Ravens now have on the edges.
26. Arizona — Charles Brown, T, Southern Cal
While the loss of Antrel Rolle, Karlos Dansby and Anquan Boldin have dominated the headlines, the Cardinals still don't have a left tackle. Brown, a former TE and an excellent athlete, started on the left side for two years at SC and, despite a lack of experience, may be the most NFL-ready of this year's draft class with huge upside potential.
27. Dallas — Jared Odrick, DT, Penn State
Odrick has superior strength and also unique agility for a 300-pounder. The combination makes him a fit as a 3-4 DE, a 3-technique tackle in a four-man front, and even as a nose in a 3-4 defense, a la Jay Ratliff, which makes him a great value at this pick. Indiana tackle Rodger Saffold might be a reach here, but the Cowboys' LT need might force their hand.
28. San Diego — Ryan Matthews, RB, Fresno State
A big, physical, downhill runner, Matthews averaged over 6 yards per carry in 2009 and is the perfect complement to Darren Sproles. Able to break tackles, and a willing blocker, he can also be a force down by the goal line. He's the 4th highest rated player left on our board, and fills a glaring need; a sensible pick for the Chargers here.
29. JETS, Dez Bryant, WR, Oklahoma State
Some would think the trade for Santonio Holmes would preclude the Jets from taking Bryant. If the Green & White gets him signed long-term, it might. But given Holmes' off-the-field issues, they could approach him with the same wait-and-see approach they used with Braylon Edwards. Meanwhile, Bryant is a top-10 talent whose maturity and off-field issues can be handled by the strong-willed Rex Ryan. Should the Jets be thinking long-term with Holmes, they could go with DE/OLB Everson Griffen out of Southern Cal or Saffold, the tackle from Indiana in this spot to address their greatest needs.
30. Minnesota — Patrick Robinson, CB, Florida State
The Vikings have played a lot of nickel and dime package stuff on defense, and that will continue against the passing teams in their division. Robinson can contribute right away in the sub packages and develop into a starter behind the aging Antoine Winfield.
31. Indianapolis — Brian Price, DT, UCLA
Price is a gap shooter with great initial quickness and explosiveness, perfect for the Colts' attacking scheme and a nice complement to Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. However, he also has a low center of gravity and good physical strength to clog the middle against the run, a key ingredient to what has ailed the Colts at times in recent seasons.
32. New Orleans — Everson Griffen, DE, Southern Cal
Among the many pieces of business left for the defending champs is the need to replace DE Charles Grant, particularly on run downs. Griffen is a sure tackler and a smart defender and some scouts believe he has a big upside.