NFL teams are determining their draft needs and finalizing their player ratings and rankings, and while those rankings have already changed numerous times, there are more changes to come. Here's a look at one way we think the first round could go if it were to take place today.
1. Detroit Lions — Eugene Monroe, T, Virginia
Many prognosticators are clamoring for the Lions to take Matthew Stafford, but we just don't see that happening at this point. Daunte Culpepper is in place and back in shape, and the recent success of players like Kurt Warner and Kerry Collins makes Culpepper's age (32) a non-factor. No matter who plays QB, he won't be effective unless properly protected. Current LT Jeff Backus has been a disappointment, and while Baylor's Jason Smith may have more upside, Monroe is ready to step in right away.
2. St. Louis Rams — Aaron Curry, LB, Wake Forest
Big, physical, smart, versatile and very coachable are all words to describe Curry. He's still the top player on our board, and he has the ability to play MLB in a 4-3 scheme, which will allow Will Witherspoon to move back outside to his natural position. Curry can anchor the Rams defense for years, and at 255 pounds, though some size up front would help, he doesn't need to be protected by a big DT. He's an instinctive player who will make plays all over the field. The Rams have a pressing need at tackle, but this draft is deep at that position and the Rams can still get a good player there with the 35th pick.
3. Kansas City Chiefs — Brian Orakpo, DE/OLB, Texas
Orakpo is a known quantity as a pass rusher and addresses a big need for the Chiefs defense, which will begin the switch to the 3-4. Orakpo is athletic, explosive and versatile enough to play DE or OLB. But above all else, he's a hard-working pass rusher who has a lot of game experience and has been very productive.
4. Seattle Seahawks — Matthew Stafford, QB, Georgia
The Seahawks have bigger needs at corner and along the offensive and defensive lines, but presented with the opportunity to select the best QB in the draft, they will be hard-pressed to pass on Stafford. A big-armed QB with a lot of big-game experience, he can learn behind Matt Hasselbeck. If Hasselbeck can't stay healthy, there are enough weapons in the lineup to help Stafford succeed.
5. Cleveland Browns — Everette Brown, DE/OLB, Florida State
Brown may be the elite pass rusher in this draft, and he has college experience moving all over the front seven to create mismatches. That's good news for the Browns, who could try him at DE or more likely use him as a pass-rushing OLB in their 3-4 scheme. Cleveland recorded just 17 sacks last season and must find a player who can get to the QB consistently.
6. Cincinnati Bengals — Jason Smith, T, Baylor
Compared to most mock drafts we've seen, this is low for Smith, who is considered a potential overall No. 1 by some scouts. He's the most naturally athletic of the deep tackle class in this draft, but he is also the most raw. But the Bengals have a gaping hole at LT so Smith could contribute right away, and if he stumbles, Cincy can move Andrew Whitworth out to tackle if need be.
7. Oakland Raiders — Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech
Javon Walker is the only receiver on Oakland's roster with any extensive experience, and while Johnnie Lee Higgins and Chaz Schilens began to show some promise toward the end of the season, the Raiders can't really expect to go into the season with either in the starting lineup. Al Davis has to like Crabtree's speed and elite playmaking ability.
8. Jacksonville Jaguars — Jeremy Maclin, WR, Missouri
Maclin is big and strong enough to play out on the perimeter but quick and elusive enough to be effective in the slot. And every time he touches the ball, his open-field running ability and flat-out speed make him a threat to score. With the departure of Matt Jones and Reggie Williams, only Dennis Northcutt and Troy Williamson return as experienced receivers for the Jags. Northcutt's best days are behind him, and Williamson has yet to prove himself as a reliable target.
9. Green Bay Packers — B.J. Raji, DT, Boston College
The Pack has Ryan Pickett and Johnny Jolly as potential NTs in their new 3-4, but Raji may be bigger and better than both of them. With Nick Barnett and A.J. Hawk at ILB, the selection of Raji gives Green Bay all of the most important components for that critical interior triangle in the 3-4.
10. San Francisco 49ers — Mark Sanchez, QB, Southern Cal
Shaun Hill and Alex Smith can battle all they want in camp. Neither of them should be the starter for this team. Though the Niners haven't shown any public interest in Jay Cutler, they did host Kurt Warner, which tells us they are looking for an upgrade. With a new head coach in Mike Singletary, there would be a honeymoon period with Californian Sanchez, who is slowly climbing many team boards.
11. Buffalo Bills — Andre Smith, T, Alabama
Though the Bills have a more pressing need for a pass rusher, the way this round has played out, they would be reaching for one here. Instead, they address their next biggest need, which is along the O-line. Smith would be an upgrade over Langston Walker, or Buffalo could move him inside to guard, where his substantial size could work to his benefit. Derrick Dockery was let go in a cost-cutting move, and though Brad Butler returns, Brandon Rodd is the only backup on the roster right now.
12. Denver Broncos — Brian Cushing, OLB, Southern Cal
The Broncos have all kinds of holes to fill on defense. They have to improve a poor-performing group from a year ago while also finding personnel to fit the new 30 front they plan to install. That won't happen overnight, and Cushing is an excellent fit because of his versatility. He can play inside or outside and is equally adept at playing the run and getting after the passer.
13. Washington Redskins — Malcolm Jenkins, CB, Ohio State
Jenkins is a physical corner who excels in zone coverage. With Carlos Rogers coming off major knee surgery and Fred Smoot putting up some inconsistent play, a corner with some healthy wheels and speed provides an upgrade to the secondary. In all likelihood, Jenkins will be a top-10 selection before all is said and done.
14. New Orleans Saints — Chris "Beanie" Wells, RB, Ohio State
With Deuce McAllister gone, the Saints are in need of a big back who can handle the pounding between the tackles. Pierre Thomas proved he can do some of that, but he wouldn't hold up in that role as a full-time player. Wells, at 235 pounds, is a runner with size and vision. His ability to run with power between the tackles makes him an ideal fit in New Orleans as he would complement Reggie Bush well.
15. Houston Texans — Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Maryland
The Texans have larger needs at corner and pass-rushing DE, but picking either here would be a reach. Heyward-Bey is a big receiver at 6'2", 210, and has 4.25 speed. The Texans had an exciting passing attack last season because they were able to spread the ball to players such as TE Owen Daniels and RB Steve Slaton, and while Kevin Walter was a productive player, he's better suited to playing the slot. Houston needs a receiver with size and speed on the opposite perimeter to balance the coverage and draw defenders away from top playmaker Andre Johnson.
16. San Diego Chargers — Tyson Jackson, DE, Louisiana State
Igor Olshansky is gone to Dallas and the Chargers need another big, strong DE who can play the run and crash the inside gaps on passing downs to create pass-rush opportunities for the OLBs. Jackson is a 300-pounder who fits the prototypical 3-4 DE build to a T.
17. New York Jets — Hakeem Nicks, WR, North Carolina
The Jets need to find a starter opposite Jerricho Cotchery, and they need a player with some speed and size who can run on the perimeter and provide a scoring threat in the red zone. Percy Harvin is still on the board, but he is more of a bubble receiver who turns short passes into long gains and lacks the size the Jets need at the position. Nicks is a bit of a reach here, but he is 6'1", 212, runs a 4.5 40, and was a productive playmaker in college.
18. Chicago Bears — Michael Oher, T, Mississippi
The Bears have three tackles on the roster and none of them have started in the NFL. Last year's No. 1, Chris Williams, is slated to start on the left, but free agent Frank Omiyale is a career backup and Cody Balogh was on the practice squad last year. The retirement of John Tait and the loss of John St. Clair to free agency makes this a big area of need in the draft.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Josh Freeman, QB, Kansas State
Luke McCown is listed as the starter and Brian Griese and Josh Johnson are still on the roster, but Tampa may be forced to find a young heir apparent sooner than later. New Bucs HC Raheem Morris knows Freeman well from his days as a defensive coach at K-State.
20. Detroit Lions (from Dallas) — Rey Maualuga, ILB, Southern Cal
The Lions are set on the outside with Ernie Sims and Julian Peterson, who arrived via trade this month. But they need an upgrade in the middle to solidify the LB corps. After getting their cornerstone tackle at the top of the draft, they will be happy to grab Maualuga here and will still have an opportunity to improve the defense with the 33rd pick.
21. Philadelphia Eagles — Knowshon Moreno, RB, Georgia
Brian Westbrook will be 30 this year, and the knee injury that slowed him most of '08 is a concern. He's a small back who can't be expected to continuously put up 350-plus touches a season. With Correll Buckhalter gone to Denver, the Eagles have to think hard about finding a complementary back, and Moreno, who is a better interior runner than given credit for, is that and more. He has excellent vision and lateral quickness and also has the skillset to be a valuable receiver out of the backfield. He could ultimately be Westbrook's replacement.
22. Minnesota Vikings — Eben Britton, T, Arizona
The Vikes address their top need with this pick. Bryant McKinnie's off-field issues and Ryan Cook's inconsistency have the Vikings thinking about who their cornerstone tackles of the future might be. The O-line has been very good for several years, but the next generation needs to be ready to go in the next couple of years. Britton has impressed with his athleticism and can play either tackle spot. Though he is probably best suited to playing the right side at this time, he could grow into a pro LT role if given time. Until then, he will at the very least be a valuable swing man in Minnesota.
23. New England Patriots — Darius Butler, CB, Connecticut
It's safe to assume New England will find its pass-rushing OLB in Julius Peppers or Jason Taylor, so the Pats could look to the secondary with this first pick. Butler is instinctive and versatile with 4.4 speed. He is aware in zone coverage and is a legitimate cover corner. He's also willing in run support and a sure tackler, and he excels on special teams. He seems like the ideal player for Bill Belichick to mold.
24. Atlanta Falcons — Peria Jerry, DT, Mississippi
Jonathan Babineaux is undersized and Kindal Moorehead is 30 and doesn't tip the scales at 300 pounds. Think about what Mike Smith had in Jacksonville in Marcus Stroud and John Henderson. He's looking to build the same thing in Atlanta and needs at least one 300-pounder with the quickness and burst to penetrate the interior gaps.
25. Miami Dolphins — Vontae Davis, CB, Illinois
Despite the recent signing of FA Eric Green, Will Allen, the Dolphins' best corner, is turning 31 and there's no depth behind them. In a division that now features Randy Moss and T.O., Miami is in need of a shutdown corner. Davis is not that yet, but he has unmatched athletic ability in this class. He is adequate in zone coverage, but perhaps best of all for a Bill Parcells-led team is his sure tackling and willingness to play the run. He's a big hitter who can separate the ball from the ballcarrier and can excel as a special-teamer in the return game, on cover teams and on the kick block units.
26. Baltimore Ravens — Percy Harvin, WR, Florida
Derrick Mason, 35, is the Ravens' best and most consistent receiver, so they need to be looking for an heir apparent. But the one thing missing from this offense is a dangerous deep threat. Harvin has 4.2 speed and can become that, but he's at his best turning short, quick passes into big gains. He's elusive in the open field and is a threat to score from anywhere.
27. Indianapolis Colts — James Laurinaitis, ILB, Ohio State
Gary Brackett was productive last year, but at 235 pounds he lacks the size to limit the power runs inside. If Indy can protect him with some size up front, he can continue to be serviceable, but the Colts should be looking to upgrade, or at the very least they need to add depth behind him. Laurinaitis is a physical tackler and has the athleticism to cover the deep middle in their Cover-2 scheme.
28. Philadelphia Eagles (from Carolina) — Clay Matthews, OLB, Southern Cal
Matthews is extremely athletic and versatile, but he lacks game experience. Omar Gaither lost his starting job at the end of last season to second-year college free agent Akeem Jordan. He'll get a chance to win it back in camp, but for the Eagles, with 12 picks in the draft and four in the top 100, finding an impact player at OLB will be on their wish list early on.
29. New York Giants — Donald Brown, RB, Connecticut
Brandon Jacobs is a big, physical runner and a workhorse back who is coming off consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. But he hasn't played a full 16-game season since he was a rookie in 2005, and there is no guarantee that the smaller, quicker Ahmad Bradshaw can be anything more than a change-of-pace back. The Giants are used to a three-back system and need another back in the mix to cover their bases. Brown's quickness out on the edge and his toughness between the tackles will remind Giants fans of Tiki Barber.
30. Tennessee Titans — D.J. Moore, CB, Vanderbilt
Vincent Fuller re-signed and will play the nickel behind starters Cortland Finnegan and Nick Harper, but there is little depth beyond those three and an upgrade wouldn't be out of the question. Moore is excellent in zone coverage and is a big hitter and a ballhawk who can contribute in sub packages initially while also bringing talents as a return man — and even as a receiver.
31. Arizona Cardinals — Connor Barwin, OLB, Cincinnati
Strongside backers Chike Okeafor and Clark Haggans are both 32 and don't provide the consistent pass-rush pressure the Cardinals need from their hybrid scheme. Barwin is smart and hard-working and plays with a great motor, which will endear him to Cardinals coaches, and he is extremely versatile. He played TE and DE at Cincy and stood up at times, making him an excellent 3-4 OLB candidate. He's also a four-year special-teamer and played forward on the basketball team. But most of all, he's a relentless pass rusher who had 11 sacks last year in his first season on defense.
32. Pittsburgh Steelers — Sean Smith, CB, Utah
The loss of Bryant McFadden leaves Ike Taylor and Deshea Townsend, who has played 11 seasons, as the starters. Fernando Bryant was re-signed as well, but the Steelers are in need of a young starting corner with some speed and ball skills. Smith is a former receiver who always seems to get his hands on the ball, as evidenced by his nine INTs and 15 passes defensed over the last two years. He also has 4.4 speed.