Drafting a quarterback with the first pick is always seen as a gamble, but no more so than drafting a defensive tackle and handing him $50 million. Even the best defensive tackle in the league doesn't affect the game the way a great quarterback does, and Bradford has the potential to be a great quarterback. Mark Sanchez, Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco are prime examples of how a young quarterback can help turn your franchise around quickly. Bradford is accurate throwing the ball various distances, and he has a strong arm and a quick release. Those skills are essential to be successful at this level. The quarterbacks who failed in recent years all lacked one of them. (Brady Quinn, for instance, wasn't very accurate throwing passes beyond 10 yards. Kyle Boller wasn't accurate at all.) The main knock on Bradford was his injury history, but when he showed up at the combine weighing 236 pounds, he convinced a lot of people he had the size to play in the NFL.
$50 million is a ton of money, and a great example of just how screwed up the salary structure is in the NFL right now, but the Rams can't pass on a guy with Bradford's potential.
I'm not sure I buy the idea that Gerald McCoy has more "upside" than Suh because he can be more disruptive in the passing game. For starters, they played in different systems. Suh's responsibility wasn't shooting gaps, it was blowing up the middle and reacting to the ball. Even with that responsibility, he had more sacks and more tackles for loss than McCoy, so it's unclear how McCoy earned this reputation as a quarterback slayer and Suh as a run stuffer. McCoy might be quicker, but Suh is as unblockable as a Kodiak bear. He's much stronger than McCoy in the upper body and to be honest, I think he's the safer pick. The Lions need a sure thing, especially with this much money at stake.
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- Gerald McCoy, Oklahoma, defensive tackle
Getting McCoy here would probably feel like a steal for the Bucs, since plenty of projections had him going first overall two months ago. McCoy has exceptional footwork, and he's very athletic for being as big as he is. He'd be a great fit in Tampa's 4-3 defense. I'm still not sold on his upper-body strength, though. At the combine, he benched 225 pounds 26 times, which is a pretty poor showing for a defensive tackle in the running to be the top pick in the draft. But the tape doesn't lie — he's a player. The Bucs need someone to be their next Warren Sapp, and either McCoy or Suh sould be that guy.
If the Redskins take Jimmy Clausen here, I really think we'll look back on it five years from now and laugh at how foolish it was. Getting Donovan McNabb probably rules that out. Mike Shannahan still needs a long-term answer at quarterback, though, so who knows. Okung could solidify their left tackle spot for a decade. He has great feet, long arms, and he benched 225 pounds 38 times at the NFL Combine, which was the most of any tackle prospect.
In my amateur opinion, Berry is the best player in the draft, and the Chiefs should sprint to the podium when it's time to pick. It's difficult to pick safeties this high in the draft, which is why it's rarely done, but Berry is probably the best college safety since Ed Reed, and he could even play corner if you needed him there. He's fast, strong, a leader, a big hitter and solid tackler, and he has that innate ability to anticipate and make plays in space. He nearly broke the NCAA record for career interception return yardage, and he's already essentially played in an NFL defensive scheme, having played under former Bucs defensive coordinator Monte Kifflin at Tennessee. The team that drafts him will start him from day one and never regret it.
C.J. Spiller makes sense here too, but I'm going to wager that Seattle thinks he'll still be there at No. 14, and in this scenario they not only get a speedy running back, they get a tackle to replace Walter Jones, and one who could anchor the left side of their line for a decade. Bulaga didn't have a great senior year, but he was a dominant junior. He can drive his feet run blocking as well as anyone and and has great balance. The Seahawks might have Trent Williams from Oklahoma rated higher than Bulaga, and Williams is more athletic, but Bulaga is a safe pick that's unlikely to be a bust. The Pete Carroll Era needs to get off to a good start, and protect Matt Hasselbeck in the process.
At Haden's Pro Day in Gainsville, he was clocked in the 4.4 range with some scouts having him as low as 4.3 and change, which answered any questions people had about his speed. The Browns need a lot of help, and if they drafted how the Ravens do (best player available) they'd probably grab Dez Bryant here, because that offense desperately needs help. But Bryant, who was allegedly constantly late for practices and even games in college, doesn't strike me as the kind of player who would exactly make a smooth transition to playing for a tyrant like Eric Mangini and under a gruff disciplinarian like Mike Holmgren. Haden is a great technique player, and should help the Browns defense made some tiny strides.
8. Oakland Raiders -- Jason Pierre-Paul, South Florida, defensive end
Everyone assumes that just because Maryland's Bruce Campbell put on a show at the combine, the Raiders won't be able to pass up his raw potential. I call bogus. No way do the Raiders actually take a Maryalnd Terrapin "project" this high two years in a row, not after Darrius Heyward-Bey's horrendous rookie campaign. Unless Al Davis is actually banging his cane on the table in Oakland's war room, demanding they take Campbell like and angry sea captain, I don't see it happening. Campbell wasn't even all-ACC as a junior, and frankly, he didn't deserve to be. (And the ACC isn't exactly a power football conference.) Pierre-Paul's raw potential fits the Raiders profile just as well anyway.
9. Buffalo Bills -- Trent Williams, Oklahoma, tackle
Overlooked in all the Bruce Campbell hype is the fact that Williams is almost as athletic as Campbell, and he's a much, much more polished player and he's more versatile. At the combine, he had a higher vertical, longer broad jump, and faster shuttle time than Campbell. Campbell was taller, has longer arms, and looked like he was chiseled from.stone, and there are some concerns about Williams' weight. But he's a tough kid who anchored Oklahoma's offensive line, and he's already considered an excellent pass blocker. He just might be JaMarcus Russell's last best shot at salvaging his NFL career.
The Jags don't really want Clausen, but someone will trade up with them to get him. We all know the player they want is Tim Tebow of Florida, no matter how much they deny it. Clausen will get his chance somewhere, and while I still predict he'll fall on his face (because he doesn't have the mentality to deal with failure) he's going to be much better off getting picked by a team that doesn't need him to be the savior like Buffalo or Cleveland. He can read defenses, but his arm just doesn't strike me as being an NFL arm, so we'll have to see.
11. Denver Broncos -- Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State, wide receiver
Denver still makes the most sense to me as the landing spot for Bryant, especially since they've traded away all their other weapons, and Josh McDaniels really only has this job because Randy Moss is such a freaky athlete and helped Tom Brady have one of the greatest season's ever for a quarterback while McDaniels was the offensive coordinator. Bryant may have some issues with tardiness, honesty and discipline, but he's an elite athlete reminiscent of Moss in his prime who will be just fine with the right team.
12. Miami Dolphins -- Dan Williams, Tennessee, defensive tackle
It's amazing how deep this draft is at defensive tackle, but that's also a little scary, because a few of them are virtually guaranteed to be busts. It's just so hard to keep a 300-plus pound man in shape, healthy and motivated. Williams, however, stayed all four years at Tennessee so he should be mature enough to handle those challenges. The Ravens would love to have someone like Williams, but he'll be long gone before they pick. He's not as tall as Suh or McCoy, or as consistent, but he's a big fire plug who should keep newly acquired linebacker Karlos Dansby happy because he can occupy blockers in the middle, allowing Dasby to fly to the ball.
The 49ers really need a left tackle, and Rutgers' Anthony Davis is going to seem intriguing, but almost no one has hurt their draft stock in recent weeks more than Davis. He did not look like he was in shape at the NFL Combine, and supposedly did not do well in interviews. At his recent Pro Day, he decided the night before that he didn't want to run or work out but didn't bother to tell all the scouts who had traveled to see him. They showed up that morning and were furious. He'll still probably be a first-round pick, but the 49ers are going to try to improve their secondary instead with this pick. Thomas isn't big, but his stock is soaring and he can play multiple positions and probably play right away.
14. Seattle Seahawks -- C.J. Spiller, Clemson, running back
If the draft does break this way, and the Seahawks are able to get a franchise right tackle and a franchise running back, Pete Carroll is going to be doing cartwheels on top of the Space Needle. Spiller isn't a big back, but no one in the draft has his speed with the ball in their hands. He has the potential to be the next Chris Johnson of the Titans. Carroll may look at Spiller and think he can use him the way USC used Reggie Bush, a combination of running the ball, catching it out of the backfield and in the return game.
15. New York Giants -- Rolando McClain, Alabama, linebacker
Other than Berry, McClain might be my favorite player in the draft. Questions keep coming up about his speed, but people had questions about Ray Lewis' speed too, and when I watch McClain play, I see a lot of Ray Lewis. That's probably an unfair comparison, but McClain has good instincts, is apparently a film junkie, and was basically an extension of Nick Saban's brain on the field. Measurables are important, but if I were an NFL general manager, the first and last thing I'd ask is: Can this kid play and produce? I don't think there are any questions about whether McClain can.
With Kyle Vanden Bosch leaving and signing with the Lions, the Titans need someone who is going to put pressure on quarterbacks, and Morgan makes a lot of sense here. He's not a Terrell Suggs-type 3-4 defensive end. He can't drop into coverage or make plays in space, otherwise he would probably be gone by this pick. But he can line up across from some pretty good tackles and use a combination of leverage and speed to go after quarterbacks. He's consistent, a hard worker, and the kind of player Jeff Fisher should be able to get a lot out of.
17. San Francisco 49ers -- Mike Iupati, Idaho, offensive line
Guards usually aren't high draft picks, but Iupati is better than any of the tackles remaining, especially with Davis' stock tanking. He didn't play in a major conference, but he has such good feet and good technique, a lot of scouts think he has the potential to be the best lineman in this draft five years from now. There is a chance the 49ers could roll the dice with Davis, but there are just too many red flags. This team is close to getting back to the playoffs, and Iupati will help get them over the hump.
Part of the Steelers' problem this year is they drifted away from what has traditionally been their strength — running the ball and overpowering teams. They were constantly getting into shootouts and asking Ben Roethlisberger to bail them out late in games, and even though he's probably the best quarterback right now in the closing minutes of a half or a game, that's not an effective strategy over the long haul. Pouncey helps them return to their roots. He can play multiple positions and will help the Steelers run the ball, which they'll need to do with Roethlisberger suspended six games.
The vocal and explosive Weatherspoon, a player the Ravens like a lot, will try to help the Falcons defense, which needs an infusion of leadership, speed and playmaking ability. Everson Griffen of USC used to look like the likely pick here, but his stock has fallen drastically in the last few months. Weatherspoon plays hard all the time, andGriffen doesn't.
Wilson would be a great fit with the Ravens, both in terms of scheme and attitude, but he'll be gone by the time they pick. The fact that he didn't play in a major conference isn't a concern, because all Boise State did was face teams that throw the ball 40 and 50 times a game. With the prevalence of spread offenses now in college, you get to evaluate corners better because they're constantly playing in space. They can't hide. Wilson has the swagger to be a good NFL corner, and as he showed at the Senior Bowl and at the combine.
I had Taylor Mays here a month ago when I did my first mock draft, but I think the Bengals are going to decide ultimately that they need to improve their passing game and are going to throw Carson Palmer a bone by drafting Gresham, thus snatching the player I originally predicted the Ravens would get. That might ultimately be a good thing for the Ravens, because there is a lot of value at tight end in this draft. Gresham has some injury concerns, but he's big, strong and fast. Although the Bengals have a history of sniffing out busts, they've drafted much better in recent years.
A number of experts think Brandon Graham goes here, and he would definitely be a good fit, but I'm leaning toward Kindle because I think his versatility can make him the player Bill Belichick thought Adalius Thomas was going to be. He's not quite big enough to play straight-up defensive end, but he does run well enough (4.7 in the 40) that he can make plays all over the field and drop into coverage if needed. Watching the Ravens/Patriots divisional playoff game last year, the thing that stood out the most was just how OLD the Patriots looked. Kindle is relentless at chasing down plays from behind and a getting upfield to go after the quarterback. He'd give the Pats a much-needed spark in terms of youth on defense.
23. Green Bay Packers -- Brandon Graham, Michigan, linebacker/defensive end
The Packers, like the Ravens, don't draft based on need. Their philosophy is best player available. It's the reason they took Aaron Rodgers several years ago even though they still had Brett Favre, which is probably the genesis of Favre's never-ending feud with Packers general manager Ted Thompson. The Packers need an offensive tackle and a cornerback, but they also really need a pass rusher.
This is an area where need meets the best player available. Graham doesn't have ideal size, but the kid is a great football player. He gets to the ball, often behind the line of scrimmage and is a sure tackler. Thompson's picks tend to be a bit of a surprise, so with all the experts assuming Green Bay will go for an offensive tackle — assuming one of the top-rated tackles doesn't slip this far — we'll buck the trend and say Graham is the highest-rated player on the Packers' board at this point.
I labored over this pick for a long time. I'm going to predict that, in the end, the Eagles are going to try to trade out of the first round. They need help on the offensive line and at defensive end, and they could potentially grab the guy they want at either of those positions by trading down. However, since we can't really predict where they'll go, we'll slot Dunlap here. The Eagles are one of those franchises that doesn't let character concerns outweigh talent in their evaluation process. So the fact that Dunlap was arrested on DUI charges and had to miss the most important game of the season won't concern them as much as it might some teams. After missing out on Julius Peppers in free agency, Philadelphia might be willing to gamble on a player of similar size and speed, and gamble that the coaching staff and the veterans on the team will be able to motivate him to play hard more often. Dunlap has potential bust written all over him, but there are also flashes of undeniable talent that suggest he could be a steal this late in the first round.
25. Ravens -- Devin McCourty, Rutgers, cornerback
I stand by my belief that the Ravens would be best served by trading down if it means they can grab another second-round pick and possibly a third. This is such a deep draft that there isn't a big enough gap between first-round talent and second-round talent at the positions the Ravens will be targeting this late in the first round. But for the purposes of this mock draft, we're going to have to assume the Ravens stay put. Plus, they're probably going to have trouble finding a team with picks to spare in a draft this deep. Here is why they'll go with McCourty: Other than offense, what were the things that plagued the Ravens the most last year? Covering wide receivers and special teams.
McCourty can provide help in both those areas. He's smart, aggressive and athletic. I'm convinced the Ravens suspect, internally, that Lardarius Webb will begin the year on the PUP list, no matter what they say publicly. So ultimately it will come down to picking a big defensive lineman like Terrence Cody or Jared Odrick, or a cornerback like McCourty. I'll take a stab and say it will be McCourty as long as he's still there.
Odrick has the chance to be a good player, but I don't see how he ever becomes a special player. (Even in the 3-4 defense, you need a five-technique tackle who showed more production than making 41 stops and seven sacks his senior year in college as Odrick did. By comparison, Kelly Gregg had 117 tackles and nine sacks his senior year at OU.) Cody just isn't strong enough to make the kind of plays he did in college at the NFL level.
Potential dark horse? Jerry Hughes of TCU, who no one has talked about to the Ravens, but might be a great replacement for Trevor Pryce.
26. Arizona Cardinals -- Anthony Davis, Rutgers, offensive tackle
As I said previously, Davis hasn't done himself any favors since the season ended. But at one point, he was considered one of the two or three best offensive linemen in the country. Ken Whisenhunt needs to figure out if Matt Leinart is a real NFL quarterback, or just a party boy with a pretty face. Davis, if he's motivated, could be a steal this far down in the draft. It still a heck of a gamble to use a first-round pick on a kid who couldn't be bothered to get in shape for what is essentially a multi-million dollar job interview. But at 6-foot-6, 325 pounds, it's hard to pass on that kind of potential.
Is Bruce Campbell a possibility here? Sure. But I just don't think it happens. As long as the Raiders pass on Campbell, I think he ends up in the second round. He's just too raw, especially for a team that's already a contender. Brown has excellent technique and great feet (he's a former tight end) and will help Tony Romo stay off his back. Campbell is one of the most physically jaw-dropping people you'll ever see. He literally doesn't look like he has an ounce of fat on him, and he's 315 pounds. But Brown was by far the superior player in college. So unless Jerry Jones does something foolish, he'll go with the safer pick.
28. San Diego Chargers -- Ryan Mathews, Fresno State, running back
Darren Sproles is a fun player to watch, but Ray Lewis proved last year that you can't have him as your feature back. He's simply not big enough or strong enough to get you tough yards. Mathews, who led the country in rushing with 1,808 yards and a 6.6 yards per carry average, would be a nice complement to Sproles. He's 5-foot-11, 220 pounds, and he knows how to find the end zone. He scored 19 touchdowns last year. There are some injury concerns, but that's why the Chargers are a good fit for him because he doesn't have to carry the load on his own. He's also not an experienced pass catcher, which is why he could come off the field and give way to Sproles on third downs without complaint. The Chargers might have Jahvid Best of California rated higher here, but I doubt it. A pairing of Sproles and Mathews makes more sense.
29. New York Jets -- Jared Odrick, Penn State, defensive end
Odrick seems like the kind of player Rex Ryan could get a lot out of. It's tough to find good five-technique defensive ends to play in a 3-4 defense because you really do have to be able to rush the passer, but also "hold the point" as the saying goes and make plays in the running game. I'm not particularly enamored with Odrick's production, but he doesn't seem like the kind of player who will be a bust. He's a hard worker who will do whatever is asked of him. The Jets could look at Alabama nose tackle Terrence Cody, but there are so many concerns about his weight that it's hard to see him in the first round.
One of the main reasons the Ravens will decide, ultimately, that they can't pass on McCourty is because they believe both Robinson and Kareem Jackson, two players rated just a tick lower than McCourty , will be gone by the time they pick. Robinson has the best feet of any corner in the draft, but he's not a consistent player. Sometimes he just didn't show up in games and looked as if he'd rather be somewhere else. But he's fast and he's smart, and he can play when he wants. The Vikings need help in the secondary.
The Colts could use some help on the offensive line, so maybe Campbell is a possibility here. But Price is a dynamic player who can wreak havoc in the offensive backfield. He's not a plugger like Cody or Odrick, he's a guy who can shoot gaps and bring down quarterbacks and running backs. The Colts could use a little bit of that on defense.
32. New Orleans Saints -- Everson Griffen, USC, defensive end
The Saints will probably take a long look at USC's Taylor Mays, because he's the most impressive physical specimen in the draft. But ultimately I think they'll take his teammate, Griffen, who has just as much potential, but is too good to pass up at this spot.