xml:space="preserve">

Each week here at the Toy Department, two Baltimore Sun staffers will engage in a segment we like to call The Conversation, where they swap e-mails with one another and debate something that is in the news. Today, Childs Walker and Ken Murray ignore the muck of other mock drafts and tell you exactly how the first day of this weekend's NFL draft will go down. OK, actually, Ken wants you to know that all of what follows is an elaborate guess. And Childs would like you to know that his version of the impending NFL draft is sketchier still, because at least Ken has studied this stuff since the NFL combine. Such reservations aside, Ken and Childs will defy those who would mock the mockers (we're looking at you, Van Valkenburg.) Spoiler alert: Saturday's first round may or may not look like this: 

1) Detroit Lions

Advertisement

Childs' pick: Ken, I know we both sat through seemingly infinite conference calls with Mike Mayock and Mel Kiper last week.  One thing that struck me during those death marches was the absolute lack of confidence in presumptive No. 1 pick Matthew Stafford. Mayock, whom I trust as a scout, loved Stafford's arm, but seemed unable to get past the fact that he disappeared for whole halves of big games. I have to say, that doesn't sound like the kind of player a desperate franchise should build around. It makes me think that Jason Smith, an excellent athlete at the premium left tackle position, might be a better pick for Detroit (I can't imagine Ozzie Newsome, for example, picking Stafford over one of the tackles.) On the plus side, Stafford has a world-class arm, started a bunch of games at a big-time program and completed 61.4 percent of his passes last season. So he doesn't feel like a total bust-in-waiting. Regardless of the widespread misgivings, he will be Detroit's choice.

Ken's pick: My biggest problem with this pick is that the Lions will shorten and diminish Stafford's career. I have had this discussion with one of his representatives. Going to Detroit is a no-win situation for a quarterback, no matter how talented. Stafford's big arm won't mean much when three defenders are ripping parts of his uniform off. Fact is, the Lions need an offensive tackle to protect a franchise quarterback, and lo and behold, there are three pretty good choices sitting right there. Still, I fully expect the pick will be Stafford because, after all, people who buy tickets don't come to see offensive tackles pass protect. For my two cents, I'd take a tackle here and Josh Freeman at 20.

2) St. Louis Rams

Childs' pick: With Orlando Pace gone, it seems a virtual certainty that the Rams will take a left tackle. Some mocks have Eugene Monroe, perhaps the best pass blocker in the draft, going in this spot. But Jason Smith's package of agility, quick feet, toughness and character is the best in this tackle class. So I'll go with him.

Ken's pick: Smith is the logical choice, unless the Rams like Eugene Monroe more. The Rams have to hope that someone wants Smith or Monroe so much that they'll trade up to the second spot to get him. It's very unlikely, but it is possible. If you want one of the elite tackles, you need to get up to at least the third pick. And the Rams would be better served with more picks down the line.

3) Kansas City Chiefs

Childs' pick: Does Scott Pioli want the best defensive player in the draft in Aaron Curry or does he want Monroe to protect his new quarterback? Conversely, might Kansas City trade down with a team that wants Monroe more? This pick carries intrigue, but I say Pioli goes the safe route and takes the draft's surest thing, Curry, for a defense that needs serious help.

Ken's pick: I'm going to go with OT Eugene Monroe of Virginia because now that the Chiefs have Matt Cassel, they need to protect their investment. What better way than the best pass protector in the draft? Plus, Monroe was good enough at Virginia to push Branden Albert (Glen Burnie) to guard. At KC, Albert was a starting tackle. Those are pretty good cornerstones for the line.

4) Seattle Seahawks

Childs' pick: If some team desperately wants Mark Sanchez, this might be the spot. That makes it a key pivot point in the draft. It's also possible that the Seahawks will take Sanchez themselves. Matt Hasselbeck only has two or three years left in the tank, and this might be their best chance to line up his successor. Many evaluators, including Mayock, think Sanchez is better than Stafford. It worries me that he only started one season's worth of games, but he's been deeply impressive, off the field and on, during the run-up to the the draft. Sanchez will be the pick here, by Seattle or someone else.

Ken's pick: Aaron Curry is a perfect piece for Jim Mora's 4-3 defense at outside linebacker. Unless the Seahawks decide Matt Hasselbeck is close to the end -- and they might -- the pick should go for the best defensive player in the draft.

5) Cleveland Browns

Childs' pick: The Browns seem less than committed to Braylon Edwards as a long-term option, and who can blame them after all of his drops last season? Michael Crabtree reminds me a lot of Larry Fitzgerald. He's not super-fast, but he catches everything around him and shows tremendous body control when fighting for the ball. Skeptics might wonder if he was a product of the Texas Tech system, but as Gil Brandt told me, all you have to do is watch him play to know that's nonsense. The Browns should nab Crabtree as their big playmaker and send Edwards packing.

Ken's pick: As badly as the Browns need a pass rusher, as much as they need a receiver, this pick could get interesting. Because they have dangled either Brady Quinn or Derek Anderson as trade bait, I'm going to send them QB Mark Sanchez. That means, of course, that Braylon Edwards will wind up in New York with the Giants, and the Browns, with the 29th pick, will take a receiver.

6) Cincinnati Bengals

Childs' pick: A bold curveball at 5, Ken. I like it. You already have Eugene Monroe off the board. But I think the Virginia tackle becomes a no-brainer for the Bengals at this spot. He has the feet and technique of a natural pass blocker and really, that's what a left tackle needs to be. Carson Palmer is the one guy separating the Bengals from Lions-style obsolescence, and they need a guy to separate Palmer from blitz-induced obsolescence.

Ken's pick: How can the Bengals not jump on Michael Crabtree here? Crabtree may have some diva in him, but he's going to be a legitimate weapon in the NFL. That will help revive Palmer's vaunted passing game. The tackle, they'll have to get later.

7) Oakland Raiders

Childs' pick: This is one where the conventional wisdom makes a lot of sense. Al Davis loves speed. Jeremy Maclin has it and was a much more productive college receiver than Maryland's Darrius Heyward-Bey.

Ken's pick: To guess what Al Davis might do is a fool's game with a fool's reward. I'll go with the chalk here because Jeremy Maclin can help both in the passing game and the return game, and we know the Raiders need all the help they can get.

8) Jacksonville Jaguars

Advertisement

Childs' pick: This is the first one where I have no idea. If Sanchez isn't gone, I expect a team to trade up and snag him here. But we both have him off the board. If Jacksonville keeps the pick, I think they'll look to build their interior. That means B.J. Raji, who, in an ideal world, might play like Haloti Ngata. Not many 6-foot-1, 337-pounders can be described as athletic. But Raji is one of that rare breed, and those types of defensive tackles rarely last long.

Ken's pick: Here's my thought, Childs. If Sanchez doesn't go to Seattle or Cleveland, he could go here, only the pick would be Denver's. But since I already have Sanchez taken, I think Raji is the logical choice. The Jaguars were hurt up the middle last year, and that has to be fixed.

9) Green Bay Packers

Childs' pick: This could be another spot targeted by traders. But one thing analysts agree on is the widespread desire for tackles. Andre Smith's draft hopes appeared to tank with his abrupt departure from the combine. But talent will prevail, especially at a premium position, and Smith is a massive kid who produced consistently at Alabama. He might lack the pass-blocking upside of Smith or Monroe, but he'll be too hard to pass up here.

Ken's pick: Assuming Andre Smith falls this far, the Packers will be overjoyed. They get a player who has been humbled and who has a lot to prove. If Smith is gone, they would try to trade down for the next tackle or grab a pass rusher.

10) San Francisco 49ers

Childs' pick: The tackle run could continue here, because Michael Oher is considered a much better prospect than the next guy at the position. But Oher would be a reach because of his inconsistency. He could end up at right tackle, and they don't usually go top 10. The 49ers also need a pass rusher, so I see them going for Texas' super-athletic Brian Orakpo. He's a bit of a one-year-wonder, but it was a heck of a year.

Ken's pick: This is Orakpo's spot. And the 49ers have a need. Because there are plenty of pass rushers in this draft, there will be no takers if the Niners want to trade down. It's Orakpo.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement