The first wave of free agency seems to have passed and settled into some sort of a less frenetic pace. But the landscape has changed dramatically. Teams tagged their own when it came to pass rushers, and then spent the money on free agent RB's, which will have a significant effect on the draft status of some of the top talent in this year's class. The pro day workouts have also gotten underway and several players have their draft position with their performance.
Team needs have changed throughout the league, so we thought it would be a good time to take some stock in what has happened so far, but do so with an eye towards the draft. Though it is still very early, here's our first stab at our Mock Draft
1. Oakland: JaMarcus Russell, QB, LSU – There was some early talk that Georgia Tech's Calvin Johnson was the best player, and potentially the top pick in this draft. But the Raiders have spent a fair amount of time and money upgrading the offensive side of the ball. The only thing they don't have is a QB, and Russell has the arm to carry the vertical passing game that Al Davis loves so much.
2. Detroit: Brady Quinn, QB, Notre Dame – We can't figure out why Josh McCown didn't start over Jon Kitna last season. He's a better player and will make more money this year. But if neither are the answer, which seems obvious at this point, how do the Lions pass on Quinn here? He's been developed under the guidance of Charlie Weis in a pro-style attack. They've bolstered the running game, added depth to the receiving corps. This is the next piece.
3. Cleveland: Joe Thomas, OT, Wisconsin – If the Browns believe that Detroit will go QB, look for Cleveland to try and move up. They need a QB as badly as anyone in the league. But short of that, look for Thomas to be the pick. The Browns line is a shambles and needs a young cornerstone player to build around. This is a team that gave up 54 sacks and averaged just three and a half yards per rush last season.
4. Tampa Bay: Calvin Johnson, WR, Georgia Tech – We acknowledge that Johnson could go to any one of the three teams ahead of the Bucs, but if he falls to this spot, it will be a great fit. Joey Galloway isn't getting any younger, neither is Ike Hilliard, and Michael Clayton and Maurice Stovall have been slow to develop. Johnson is a game-changer.
5. Arizona: Levi Brown, OT, Penn State – New HC Ken Whisenhunt wants to run the ball 30-40 times per game, and if that's the case, he needs to keep improving that O-line. Brown is big, strong, and very athletic for a man his size, and he has tremendous upside.
6. Washington: Alan Branch, NT, Michigan – Branch is a run stuffer who can occupy blockers in the middle to free up the DE's, or can use his quickness and agility to make plays in the backfield. He's an instant upgrade for the Skins.
7. Minnesota: Gaines Adams, DE, Clemson – He has the explosive first step and top end speed of a premier pass rusher. They could drop down for a WR or a TE, but this addresses a pressing need for this team.
8. Houston: Jamaal Anderson, DE, Arkansas – A speed rusher off the edge, Anderson would give the Texans a perfect compliment to Mario Williams, last year's #1. Pass rushers and left tackles are the building blocks of success in the NFL, so consider Anderson part of the answer in Houston.
9. Miami: LaRon Landry, S, LSU – Landry is said to be a top ten pick these days, so don't expect the Dolphins to let him get by them. Landry can start right away and lend some stability to a position that has seen up and down play from Jason Allen and Yeremiah Bell.
10. Atlanta: Leon Hall, CB, Michigan – The Falcons need an answer opposite DeAngelo Hall. This Hall has the size and strength to battle big receivers, is willing in run support, and can play man coverage against all but the fastest receivers in the NFL without help.
11. San Francisco: Adam Carriker, DE, Nebraska – Carriker, with his size and speed, is a great fit for the Niners 3-4 defense.
12. Buffalo: Adrian Peterson, RB, Oklahoma – Unless the Bills sign someone in free agency, there is a need here because Anthony Thomas is not the answer. If Peterson falls this far, there will finally be sunshine in Buffalo!
13. St. Louis: Amobi Okoye, DT, Louisville – The Rams struggled to generate a pass rush in 2006 and have done little to bolster the D-line in free agency. Okoye is quick like a cat and can disrupt the pocket from the interior.
14. Carolina: Patrick Willis, LB, Mississippi – Dan Morgan's health is a concern, and Willis is a pure MLB who has speed and great range. He finds the ball and will make plays.
15. Pittsburgh: Lawrence Timmons, OLB, Florida State – Timmons is a playmaker, and an athletic one at that. He can be a pass rusher off the edge in a 3-4 and can play in coverage, but is also a sideline to sideline run defender who has a nose for the ball and will fit in as a WILL in a 4-3 if new HC Mike Tomlin goes that way.
16. Green Bay: Marshawn Lynch, RB, California – The Packers could use a playmaker at WR or TE here, but the loss of Ahman Green to the Texans trumps all. Favre needs a back to keep the pass rush off him. Lynch is a strong runner and can also serve as a reliable receiver out of the backfield.
17. Jacksonville: Reggie Nelson, S, Florida – The Jags have already worked out Nelson, and with Deon Grant gone and Donovin Darius coming back from yet another season-ending injury, Nelson is the smart pick.
18. Cincinnati: Jarvis Moss, DE, Florida – The run on Gators begins! Moss is a perfect speed rusher off the edge in the Bengals attacking 4-3 defense. But if Marvin Lewis goes to a hybrid defense, which has been rumored, Moss has the build and the speed to stand up as an OLB.
19. Tennessee: Dwayne Jarrett, WR, USC – Jarrett isn't the highest rated WR on the board at this point, but we find it hard to believe Norm Chow won't be in the draft room fighting for his former SC protégé. Jarrett won't win in the workout wars, but he makes plays all over the field, and his familiarity with Chow will give him a chance to step in and start right away, which is key with the loss of Drew Bennett.
20. N.Y. Giants: Chris Houston, CB, Arkansas – Houston has climbed the board due to his outstanding 40 time at the combine, but even though he possesses great physical tools, he is shy on playing experience (a junior who started just one full season) and needs to improve his technique to compete at the NFL level. The Giants are still trying to fix the secondary, and his speed will be valuable on special teams right away.
21. Denver: Ted Ginn Jr., WR, Ohio State – With no defensive end here to address their greatest need, the Broncos will add depth to their WR corps. While Ginn has blazing speed and is a viable deep threat, he is not a polished receiver. The good news is he won't be relied on to start right away and will have a chance to develop while contributing as a game-breaking return man.
22. Dallas: Dwayne Bowe, WR, LSU – TO and Terry Glenn will be 33 this year, and while there are more pressing needs for the Cowboys, none of them can be appropriately addressed here. Bowe is big (6-2, 222) and fast (4.5). He's got more polish and more upside than just about any receiver in this draft.
23. Kansas City: Robert Meachem, WR, Tennessee – Like most early-entry juniors, Meachem has some things to improve on, and some growing up to do. But his combination of size and speed (6-2, 210, 4.49) make him an intriguing prospect. Scouts love his ability to make plays after the catch.
24. New England: Anthony Spencer, OLB/DE, Purdue – If the Pats think they can get Patrick Willis, they could package some picks and move up. If not, look for them to consider Spencer, or possibly Penn State's Paul Posluszny. Both have different strengths, but are coachable and will make plays.
25. N.Y. Jets: Greg Olsen, TE, Miami – Olsen's stock continues to rise and it gets harder and harder to believe that he will last this long on the draft board. But if he does, he is the missing piece in a Jets offense that relies on Chad Pennington's accuracy in the short to intermediate passing game. He's a big, athletic target who can make plays with the ball in his hands.
26. Philadelphia: Aaron Ross, CB, Texas -- The Eagles need a corner and a safety to go along with a top flight outside linebacker. Expect them to address their wide receiver need, and maybe even OLB, in free agency, which makes this a strong choice.
27. New Orleans: Paul Posluszny, OLB, Penn State – The Saints really need a TE, but Olsen will be gone by now, and Zach Miller hasn't impressed enough to warrant a selection here. Posluszny is a playmaker and has the versatility to play inside or outside, which will make him even more valuable to this defense.
28. New England: Ryan Kalil, OC, USC – This seems like a natural to us. Kalil is a typical Pats-type lineman. He's smart, tough, and durable, is a versatile blocker, and has those intangibles coming out his ears.
29. Baltimore: Marcus McCauley, CB, Fresno State – Samari Rolle has become a liability in coverage. McCauley is a big corner at 6-0, 200 pounds, and has shown playmaking ability in the past. He has great physical tools and can be a top flight corner if Coach Billick can get him to play with some confidence after a very tough senior season with the Bulldogs.
30. San Diego: Sidney Rice, WR, South Carolina – Rice is a raw talent who possesses the height, speed and hands to be a dangerous vertical threat and a big red zone target.
31. Chicago: Aaron Rouse, S, Virginia Tech – Rouse is a terrific athlete who does everything well. He can cover the TE, support the run, man the deep middle in zone coverage, and he'll contribute right away on special teams.
32. Indianapolis: Jon Beason, OLB, Miami (FL) – Beason is a good fit for the Colts Tampa Two defense. He has the speed and athleticism to blitz or play in coverage, will make plays in pursuit against the run, and will be a top special teams player.