Let the game begin
My first crack at projecting the NFL draft's first round
Posted: Thursday January 24, 2008 11:46AM; Updated: Thursday January 24, 2008 1:58PM
With the Senior Bowl workouts underway this week, and all but two of the NFL's 32 teams having begun their offseasons, it's time for our first (of many) attempts to mock out the opening round of the NFL draft. A record 53 underclassmen declared for the April 26-27 draft, and in the next three months, free agency will do plenty to change the needs of most teams. But here's how we see things shaping up. (Send comments to email@example.com
Mock NFL Draft No. 1
Pick Team Pos. Player College Class Ht. Wt.
1 DT Glenn Dorsey LSU Sr. 6-1 310
I'm not convinced that new Dolphins football czar Bill Parcells will allow himself to assign No. 1 overall value to an interior defensive lineman, so don't overlook Miami taking defensive end Chris Long of Virginia if, as expected, it gets no offers to trade out of the slot. There's also the issue of whether Dorsey's disruptive style of play would best be used in the 3-4 formation, should the Dolphins switch to it with Parcells on board. But with Miami in need of defensive help, Dorsey is No. 1 for now.
2 DE Chris Long Virginia Sr. 6-3 266
The Rams' choice will likely boil down to someone named Long, either Chris or Michigan offensive tackle Jake Long (no relation). But we're giving them Howie Long's impressive son, because he's such a solid bet to quickly turn into an impact pro. Long would team nicely with last year's No. 1, defensive tackle Adam Carriker.
3 QB Matt Ryan Boston College Sr. 6-5 221
Given the Falcons' fiasco at quarterback in 2007 -- from Michael Vick to Joey Harrington to Byron Leftwich to Chris Redman -- being in position to turn their card in for Ryan seems like the first break Atlanta has gotten in almost a year. What about Brian Brohm? I don't think Arthur Blank is of the mind to take a chance on anyone else from Louisville for a while.
4 RB Darren McFadden Arkansas Jr. 6-2 212
My gut tells me the cash-poor Raiders don't really want to be paying a top-five contract again this year, so look for them to shop this pick to some team hot for this year's version of Adrian Peterson. Folks are keeping an eye on Dallas in that regard, because of Jerry Jones' Arkansas ties. If McFadden makes it beyond No. 4, he could tumble past a number of teams who are already set at running back.
5 OT Jake Long Michigan Sr. 6-7 309
After years of excellence, the Chiefs offensive line reached disaster-area status last season. Long would be an immediate upgrade at either tackle, and help get Kansas City's Larry Johnson-led running game back on track.
6 DE Quentin Groves Auburn Sr. 6-3 249
This is higher than most have Groves going at this point, but he's expected to elevate himself in the round once he works out at both the Combine and at his pro day. Groves has a great burst off the edge, and his top-end speed will likely set him apart in scout's eyes once the memory of his injury-plagued senior season fades.
7 CB Mike Jenkins South Florida Sr. 6-0 200
With the probable free-agent departure of No. 1 cornerback Asante Samuel this spring, the Patriots will need a cover man. Jenkins is considered the cleanest name in a cornerback crop that lacks depth and impact potential.
*From San Francisco
8 QB Brian Brohm Louisville Sr. 6-3 225
Until the Ravens get their long-standing quarterback issues settled, all other needs will continue to seem secondary. Baltimore can't afford to pass on a prospect who has played and starred in a pro-style offense.
9 DT Sedrick Ellis USC Sr. 6-2 257
Ellis has turned heads this week in his Senior Bowl practices, and he's the kind of explosive and athletic play-making presence that the Bengals desperately need in their interior defensive line. He's not the biggest guy (257 pounds), but he's a force to be reckoned with and rarely gets handled by just one blocker.
10 CB Aqib Talib Kansas Jr. 6-2 201
The Saints didn't upgrade their pass defense enough last offseason (Jason David?) and they paid for it in 2007. Talib is an elite athlete who has NFL size and coverage skills, and his versatility extends to him having played some on offense for the Jayhawks.
11 WR/PR DeSean Jackson Cal Jr. 6-0 179
The Bills need more offensive weapons, and taking a first-rounder out of Cal worked out pretty well for Buffalo last year. Jackson has speed to burn, and while he's not a finished product by any means, his upside is higher than any other receiver in this year's draft.
12 OT Ryan Clady Boise State Jr. 6-6 317
With the retirement of Matt Lepsis, finding a replacement at offensive tackle rises to the top of the Broncos' need list. Clady has tremendous size, but is still nimble enough in pass coverage thanks to his quick feet.
13 DE Vernon Gholston Ohio State Jr. 6-4 255
The Panthers didn't get much of a pass rush this season thanks to Julius Peppers' disappearing act, and they could use some youth at the position with Mike Rucker likely headed for retirement. Gholston is one of the draft's best edge-rush prospects, and could wind up as an outside linebacker for a team that plays the 3-4.
14 QB Andre Woodson Kentucky Sr. 6-4 219
Like the Falcons and Ravens above them, the Bears lack a long-term answer at quarterback. This is about as high as Woodson could possibly go, but the Bears' need might make him a fit. He needs to improve his decision-making, but he has a solid arm and good NFL quarterback size.
15 OT Jeff Otah Pittsburgh Sr. 6-6 339
The Lions could be targeting one of the highest-rated cornerbacks with this pick, but their need at offensive tackle might fit better with the available value at No. 15. Otah has size and impressive athleticism for a big man. He'd upgrade the right tackle slot (George Foster) or allow the Lions to consider moving LT Jeff Backus to guard.
16 S Kenny Phillips Miami (Fla.) Jr. 6-2 203
There's a good argument for targeting Oregon running back Jonathan Stewart with this pick, and that speaks to Edgerrin James' diminished status in Arizona. But Phillips has great tools and is very attractive as an upgrade over free safety Terrence Holt. The tandem of Phillips and Adrian Wilson in the secondary would make safety a Cardinals strength.
17 DE Calais Campbell Miami (Fla.) Jr. 6-8 279
The Vikings' run defense remains superb, but Minnesota's defensive line still needs to generate some pass rush. Campbell is a 6-foot-8 defensive end with some burst off the edge. This could be a steal at this juncture in the draft, as the junior has the potential to go in the top half of the first round.
18 CB Leodis McKelvin Troy Sr. 5-11 186
The Texans' defensive front seven is suddenly studded with playmakers in Mario Williams, Amobi Okoye and DeMeco Ryans, but Houston's secondary is the weak link. McKelvin has shut-down cornerback potential and played well against tough competition. With No. 1 cover man Dunta Robinson rehabbing a season-ending knee injury, the Texans need pass defense help now.
19 WR Malcolm Kelly Oklahoma Jr. 6-4 217
Quarterback Donovan McNabb has made it known that he needs more playmakers at receiver, and selecting Kelly would be a clear-cut indication that his request was heard and heeded by Andy Reid. Kelly has the size that NFL scouts prefer and is known for his quality route-running.
20 OT Sam Baker USC Sr. 6-5 312
The Bucs' offensive line needs an infusion of talent at left tackle, where Luke Petitgout isn't considered a long-term option. Baker struggled with injuries as a senior, but he's the best available athlete who could step into Tampa Bay's lineup in 2008.
21 WR Limas Sweed Texas Sr. 6-4 219
The Redskins have tried to go the small-receiver route without much success. Sweed is 6-4, 215 pounds and this week at the Senior Bowl had started to put to rest the concerns about the wrist injury that curtailed his 2007 season. However, Sweed slightly reinjured his wrist Wednesday and will sit out the all-star game. If the Redskins don't take him, No. 22 Dallas would love to have him.
22 WR Mario Manningham Michigan Jr. 6-0 188
The Cowboys want to get younger at receiver, where both Terrell Owens and Terry Glenn are 30-somethings who entered the NFL in the celebrated class of '96. Manningham has deep speed and could supply the vertical threat opposite T.O.'s strong intermediate routes.
23 DE Derrick Harvey Florida Jr. 6-4 250
The Steelers offensive line could use help at guard, tackle and center, but there's nothing left with first-round value at those positions on my board. Harvey gives them a solid pass-rusher who is expected to mature into a dependable pro.
24 WR Early Doucet LSU Sr. 6-0 210
The Titans have to prioritize finding another couple receiving targets in order to aid quarterback Vince Young's development as a passer. Doucet continues the round's second-half run on receivers, and also continues the Tigers' impressive first-round representation the past two drafts.
25 RB Jonathan Stewart Oregon Jr. 5-11 233
Due to the ability of so many teams to find running backs in the later rounds, we have Stewart lingering all the way to the Seahawks, who clearly need to be thinking about their post-Shaun Alexander era. Stewart was a big-play threat in the Ducks' spread offense, but he can gain the tough yards too.
26 WR James Hardy Indiana Jr. 6-6 218
The Jaguars could use an upgrade in their pass rush, where they're not getting enough pressure from the likes of Bobby McCray and Reggie Hayward at right defensive end. But with no first-round pass rusher left to pick from, Jacksonville should once again try to find a true No. 1 receiver with the ability to stretch the field. Hardy is the best option at the bottom of the round.
27 LB Dan Connor Penn State Sr. 6-3 228
There aren't many glaring holes to fill in San Diego, but the Chargers could use an upgrade for Matt Wilhelm at inside linebacker. Connor shifted inside this season for the Nittany Lions, where he took over for Paul Posluszny, who went in last year's second round to Buffalo. Connor plays tough and finds the ball.
28 RB Felix Jones Arkansas Jr. 6-0 205
If the Cowboys don't package their two No. 1's in an effort to move up and take Arkansas running back Darren McFadden, maybe they'll sit tight and settle for the Hogs' other playmaking rusher. Jones has speed, good size (200 pounds) and he's a threat both as a receiver and in the return game.
29 OLB Keith Rivers USC Sr. 6-3 236
The 49ers would love to land a first-round receiver, an offensive tackle or a pass rusher, but they're all gone down this far in the round. Rivers isn't a bad consolation prize. He's athletic, has a great motor, and had a leading role in playing for an ultra-successful program.
* from Indianapolis
30 TE Fred Davis USC Sr. 6-4 245
As pleasant a surprise as tight end Donald Lee was as a pass-catcher this season, the Packers won't be able to pass on Davis if he's still on the board. He would give Brett Favre the go-to option down the seam that he never had with Bubba Franks.
31 OLB Ali Highsmith LSU Sr. 6-0 221
The Giants would love to see either Connor or Rivers linger to their spot, but if neither of those options remain, Highsmith is one of the most complete linebackers in this year's draft, and would upgrade New York at outside linebacker.
32 Pick forfeited
The Patriots lost this pick as their penalty for the Week 1 Spygate episode.