It's amazing how one little change at the top of the draft can have such a ripple effect on the rest of the first round. By supplanting Vernon Gholston with Chris Long as the Dolphins' No. 1 selection, we created an avalanche in which nine of the first 15 picks changed in one week.
Needs will dictate a lot of these picks, so don't be surprised to see a couple of reaches here and there. The second half of Round 1, Picks 16-31, will follow Wednesday morning.
1. Miami Dolphins — Chris Long, DE, Virginia
Vernon Gholston is the more explosive athlete with greater upside, but some scouts still point to an inconsistent motor that shows up on video from time to time. If Bill Parcells was still in the trenches pushing his buttons, that wouldn't be as much of a concern.
But he's not, so Long is the safer pick. He's a more polished pass rusher who has been very productive and has shown some versatility in drills, enough to make scouts and coaches believe he can play upright in a 3-4 scheme. Oh yeah, and no one in Miami is going to have to push this guy. If anything, they'll have to hold him back. Last Week: Gholston
2. St. Louis — Glenn Dorsey, DT, LSU
Yes, St. Louis needs someone to protect Marc Bulger's battered frame. But the depth of talent on the D-line is not nearly as good as that of the OTs in this draft. The Rams will address the O-line at the top of Round 2. Their defense has been improving but still struggles to get to the QB without multiple blitz schemes.
This selection allows St. Louis to move last year's No. 1, Adam Carriker, back to his natural position at DE opposite Leonard Little, or to leave him at DT and allow the two of them to collapse the pocket from the interior. St. Louis would have three viable pass rushers on the field at all times. Last Week: Chris Long
3. Atlanta — Matt Ryan, QB, Boston College
With three second-round picks, there is a school of thought that the Falcons could take an impact defensive player like Gholston or Sedrick Ellis at this spot and then take a QB early in the second, or use some of those picks to trade up into the first round, a la Cleveland a year ago. Former Patriots personnel man Thomas Dimitroff is running the show now, so expect some shrewd use of the team's 11 picks, and defense will be on the mind of new head coach Mike Smith.
But as we get closer to the end of April, the Falcons have to have come to the grave reality that they are in dire need of a quarterback. They will take Ryan here, giving them the best QB in the draft, a solid citizen who will restore the faith of the Atlanta community in the organization and put some fannies in the seats. Expect a lot of defense coming up in Round 2. Last Week: Dorsey
4. Oakland — Darren McFadden, RB, Arkansas
Head coach Lane Kiffin has been making a case for Rob Ryan's defense in recent weeks, and he's right in thinking the Raiders need to find an inside presence like Ellis or a pass-rush threat opposite DE Derrick Burgess like Gholston up front. But they signed Tommy Kelly and brought in William Joseph and Kalimba Edwards to boost the line and acquired DeAngelo Hall and Gibril Wilson to shore up the secondary. We don't know that those are viable answers, but the Raiders paid them like they think they are.
Oakland could also be gun-shy about going for the OT after past failures this early in the draft (Robert Gallery) and, without another pick until the fourth round, will want to make a splash with this one. McFadden has the speed Al Davis loves, he has the versatility and game-breaking ability that has been absent from this offense for some time, LaMont Jordan, Dominic Rhodes and Justin Fargas are not the answer, and Michael Bush is not a sure thing. Last Week: McFadden
5. Kansas City — Jake Long, OT, Michigan
We've mentioned before that the Chiefs will be listening to all offers for this pick right up until they go on the clock. But if Long is still on the board when they do, they will promptly hang up the phone. Long is the only player (short of Matt Ryan) they will consider taking with this pick. They will begin rebuilding their decimated O-line with the best lineman in the draft. Don't be surprised to see him start at RT until he develops into a dominant LT over time. Last Week: Jake Long
6. Jets — Vernon Gholston, DE, Ohio State
The Jets are in desperate need of a pass rush. The addition of Calvin Pace in free agency helps, and Gholston gives them another threat from the opposite side, which automatically makes Shaun Ellis a factor once more. Gholston's versatility as a down lineman or a standup pass rusher gives their defense the flexibility to run the multiple fronts Eric Mangini likes to use. They will also be happy to take him off New England's board.
With Ryan and McFadden off the board, the Jets' trade options will be limited, so look for them to make the pick here. If either of those players is still available at this spot, they could be in position to trade down. Last Week: Leodis McKelvin
7. New England — Leodis McKelvin, CB, Troy
With the top pass rushers and offensive skill players gone, the Pats trade bait takes a hit, and make no mistake, it would be their preference here to trade down and add some picks. But as it stands, they won't select again until the end of Round 2. New England likes to address the O-line early, but corner is the greater need and McKelvin is a top athlete with gamebreaking speed and skills both on defense and in the return game. Last Week: Derrick Harvey
8. Baltimore — Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB, Tennessee State
The Ravens allowed more pass plays of 40 yards than any other team in the NFL last year (15) and allowed the third-most 20 plays (53). They are in desperate need of a corner and are not happy McKelvin is gone. In Rodgers-Cromartie they get a similar player who can play press coverage and turn and run with any receiver in the league, and he's another playmaker on defense and as a return man. He'll have an immediate impact on a secondary that is aging quickly.
Baltimore would have loved for Ryan to fall here, and some might also see an OT here to address the retirement of Jonathan Ogden. But the Ravens have several young players they feel are ready to step into that role, making corner the most pressing need. Last Week:Matt Ryan
9. Cincinnati — Sedrick Ellis, DT, Southern Cal
We still think Ellis could go earlier than this. He has really flashed during the postseason and in workouts. The Bengals need to pressure the quarterback more than anything else, and if Ellis is gone, they could go with a pass-rushing end like Derrick Harvey here. But Ellis' quick first step and ability to penetrate will open things up for DEs Antwan Odom and Robert Geathers. Marvin Lewis' crew just got a lot better. Last Week: Ellis
10. New Orleans — Keith Rivers, LB, Southern Cal
Rivers is another player who brings a lot of versatility to his game along with outstanding athletic ability and game-changing skills. With Jonathan Vilma and Dan Morgan both injury liabilities, we think Rivers will see the field sooner than later, and his ability to play inside or outside gives the Saints some flexibility. He has a nose for the ball and will have an impact no matter where he lines up. Last Week: Rivers
11. Buffalo — Devin Thomas, WR, Michigan State
The Bills were 30th in the NFL in 2007 with just 33 pass plays of 20 yards. Of course, they were worst in the NFL with 55 pass plays of 20 yards allowed, which explains why WR and CB are this team's top two needs. Buffalo tried to address the defensive side of the problem with the signing of William James (formerly Will Peterson of Giants fame), but he's not NFL starting material and they still don't have a receiving threat to pull coverage off Lee Evans.
Thomas is a big target (6'2", 215) who isn't afraid to go over the middle but also has deep speed. While other receivers have seen their stock fall due to poor workouts or medical or character issues, Thomas has separated himself from the pack. Look for a corner and a TE later in the draft. Last Week: Thomas
12. Denver — Ryan Clady, OT, Boise State
Despite his small-school background, Clady is one of the best true LTs in this draft and has the ideal athleticism to excel in the Broncos' zone-blocking scheme. This also addresses the need created by the retirement of Matt Lepsis. Don't be surprised to see Denver address its suddenly thin WR corps or the D-line in Round 2. Last Week: Clady
13. Carolina — Branden Albert, T/G, Virginia
There's been a lot of talk about Carolina using this pick on a running back, namely Rashard Mendenhall. But even though most teams have gone to an RB-by-committee approach, we don't believe the Panthers sent DeShaun Foster packing in order to bring in someone else to share the load with DeAngelo Williams. He will get his shot to carry the mail this season (he averaged more than 6 yards per carry in two of the Panthers' last three games last season), and they will help him by fixing the mess that is the O-line.
Albert, a fast riser on most boards, is a mauler in the run game who played guard in college but has the long arms, quick feet and athleticism to play OT at the next level. That would allow Travelle Wharton to move inside, which has been an ongoing problem. If Albert can't handle the edge rushers, Wharton can still play the right side and Albert can slide inside and start at G until he develops into a starting T. Either way, the Cats win. Last Week: OT Jeff Otah
14. Chicago Bears — Brian Brohm, QB, Louisville
In the first shocker of the draft, Da Bears make a statement about their future. (You didn't want us to give you some drab mock that was just like everyone else's, did you?) Ced Benson has been a huge disappointment and the O-line needs help. But both positions offer talented players later in the draft. If the Bears wait to address the QB position in Round 2 (pick No. 44), all of the top prospects could already be gone. It's important to note that the Bears only signed Rex Grossman to a one-year deal this off-season. That means the future at the position is up for grabs.
Brohm's older brother has had him working through NFL passing drills since he was in junior high. He doesn't have the biggest arm, but he's polished, has a high football IQ and has been extremely productive. Even during Louisville's disaster of a 2007 season, he put up some of the best numbers of his career. With Ryan's less-than-stellar workout and questions arising about Chad Henne and Joe Flacco, Brohm's stock has been on the rise. He's Mr. Consistency, which is something the Bears would love to have for a change. Last Week: Rashard Mendenhall
15. Detroit — Derrick Harvey, DE, Florida
What the Lions really need is pass-rush help. Harvey can provide that. A lot of teams started looking at him as a 3-4 OLB, but his 4.8 40 and 31 reps on the bench are explosive numbers and he has the lanky frame to add bulk and excel against bigger linemen. He had 30 TFL and 19½ sacks with his hand in the dirt in his last two seasons in Gainesville and was strong in run support (minus-28 yards on 47 attempts to his side last season).
Head coach Rod Marinelli grew up in Monte Kiffin's Tampa defense and whenever we talk to him he talks about "feeding the front" whenever you have the chance. Harvey will make an immediate impact. Last Week:LB Dan Connor
Wednesday: Mock Draft II, Picks 16-31