By Peter Christian
1. Detroit Lions Matt Stafford QB Georgia
The first post-Millen draft is going to be important for the Lions. The team has plenty of holes to fill, but getting a stud QB will give the franchise a face to build around. The Lions are definitely thinking of taking an offensive tackle here and hoping to grab Sanchez with the 20th overall pick.
2. St. Louis Rams Andre Smith OT Alabama
Andre Smith is very large (6’4″, 330 lbs.) and is going to be a great run blocker in the NFL. There is question as to whether he is quick enough to handle the speed rushers off the edge at the pro level, which likely means he will be moved to right tackle.
3. Kansas City Chiefs Aaron Curry OLB Wake Forest
There is little doubt that this pick will be a front seven defensive player. Between Curry and Brian Orakpo (DE – Texas) the Chiefs will likely decide based on their combine performances, however as of now Curry’s upside is higher.
4. Seattle Seahawks Michael Crabtree WR Texas Tech
It seems like the Seahawks haven’t had a reliable receiver since Steve Largent. Crabtree can be that reliable down field threat to help open up the rest of the offense.
5. Cleveland Browns Brian Orakpo DE Texas
Orakpo has the tools to become an elite pass rusher in the NFL. Some scouts and NFL junkies have said that he could be converted to an outside linebacker which could happen in Cleveland if Eric Mangini brings the 3-4 defense to the Dawg Pound. Where ever the Browns have Orakpo line up he is definitely going to fill a need.
6. Cincinnati Bengals B.J. Raji DT Boston College
Raji is moving up and down many mocks and draft boards and will likely continue to do so until the Combine. The team that takes B.J. will be thoroughly impressed with his upper body strength and his ability to change the direction of the play.
7. Oakland Raiders Eugene Monroe OT Virginia
Eugene Monroe isn’t getting as much hype as Andre Smith, but he is probably just as fundamentally sound, if not more. Monroe can play tackle on either side at the NFL level.
8. Jacksonville Jaguars Michael Oher OT Ole Miss
Jacksonville needs talent and depth at offensive tackle badly. Luckily for them, this draft is stocked with exactly that. Oher is quietly moving up many draft boards and could find his way into the top 5.
9. Green Bay Packers Aaron Maybin DE Penn State
Aaron Kampman is not getting any younger and the Packers really have no depth at DE. Aaron Maybin is a suitable candidate to learn from Kampman in Dom Caper’s 3-4 defense and not only because they have the same name.
10. San Francisco 49ers Rey Maualuga LB USC
Maualuga paired with Singletary in San Francisco could be a match made in heaven. If Ray Lewis and Troy Polamalu had a baby, Maualuga would be the result.
11. Buffalo Bills Brandon Pettigrew TE Oklahoma State
Pettigrew’s stock is rising. At 6’6″, 260 lbs. he is a match-up nightmare for opposing defenses, no matter who is throwing him the ball. He can be a great asset to the offense in the short and intermediate passing game.
12. Denver Broncos Malcom Jenkins CB CB
Jenkins has been given the benefit of playing behind a very good defensive front during his college career but that doesn’t mean he isn’t talented. OSU’s history of producing good CB’s will continue with Jenkins.
13. Washington Redskins Everette Brown DE Florida State
Everette Brown is an extremely agile defensive lineman. There is talk about his game translating to the OLB position in the NFL which would likely best utilize his versatility.
14. New Orleans Saints Vontae Davis CB Illinois
Malcom Jenkins gets all the hype of a Big Ten CB but Davis has the better upside. There isn’t a lot of buzz on him now but as the draft nears he will start to turn a few heads.
15. Houston Texans Jeremy Maclin WR Missouri
Maclin has a great skill set. He has good hands, great speed and agility. He can help a team in the passing game, the return game and was also a very effective option out of the backfield on occasion..
16. San Diego Chargers Brian Cushing LB USC
Cushing has plenty of question marks to go with his talent. However as GM’s watch him on the field, those question marks will likely be forgotten. Cushing’s draft stock will likely hinge on his medical records and team interviews rather than his measurables.
17. New York Jets Mark Sanchez QB USC
Sanchez probably causes the most debate than any other player in this year’s draft. He is a definite question mark due to inexperience (only 16 starts in college) and inconsistency (tough games against Arizona and Arizona State). However with the Jets QB situation definitely in limbo they need to do something to address the emptiness.
18. Chicago Bears Sean Smith DB Utah
A big, fast player that can play corner or safety. At 6’3″ he could match-up very well against the taller more physical opposing receivers. Chicago’s lack of depth in the defensive backfield was exposed last year and Smith would be a welcomed addition.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Jason Smith OT Baylor
At 6’5″, 305 lbs. Smith has great size but he will wow people with his athletic ability. The converted tight end is extremely agile and quick and will defend against speed rushers very well. He will likely be asked to gain some strength in both his upper and lower body in order to prevent him from getting outmuscled in the trenches.
21. Philadelphia Eagles Knowshon Moreno RB Georgia
Moreno is a blend of speed, agility and muscle and can provide any team with a great home run threat out of the backfield. He has amazing downfield moves and can make just about any defender look foolish.
22. Minnesota Vikings Percy Harvin WR Florida
Harvin is possibly the best athlete in the draft. He has amazing speed and is surprisingly strong for his stature. His game likely translates to becoming a slot receiver in the NFL but he can line up anywhere if asked.
23. New England Patriots James Laurinitis LB Ohio State
Laurinitis likely would have been taken in the top 10 in last year’s draft, but his slipping has little to do with his own play. He brings great energy to the field and is always around the ball.
24. Atlanta Falcons Alphonso Smith CB Wake Forest
The Falcons were less than mediocre in pass coverage last season and why would they ever pass on a guy nicknamed “Prime”? Smith, given the nickname for being a shorter version of Deion Sanders, has great tools to get after opposing receivers and will likely be a regular in quarterback’s nightmares.
25. Miami Dolphins Darrius Heyward-Bey WR Maryland
Heyward-Bey can give the Dolphins offense the one thing it really needs, a big physical receiver. Currently the Dolphins are relying on three slot-type receivers (Ginn, Camarillo and Bess) and lack any size on the outside and don’t have anyone that they can just “toss it up to” in the end zone. Until now.
26. Baltimore Ravens Larry English OLB Northern Illinois
English’s size will likely lock him into being an OLB in the NFL but his stock is on the rise nonetheless. His stats and accolades in the MAC shouldn’t be downplayed, his ethic is pure.
27. Indianapolis Colts DJ Moore CB Vanderbilt
Moore dealt with a lot of injuries last season but was still a finalist for the Jim Thorpe award as one of the nation’s best defensive backs. He has shown an ability to make good reads and get good breaks on the ball, racking up 11 interceptions over the last two seasons.
28. Philadelphia Eagles (from Carolina) Tyson Jackson DE LSU
Jackson’s biggest knock is that he takes plays off, if he had a consistent motor he would likely be mentioned in the same breath as Everette Brown and Aaron Maybin. As long as he doesn’t mail in his performance at the combine he should still be a first rounder
29. New York Giants Hakeem Nicks WR North Carolina
Nicks is a big, physical receiver that has bear paws for hands. He catches everything thrown to him. His breakout season for Butch Davis at UNC has made him a must see at the combine for NFL GM’s.
30. Tennessee Titans Peria Jerry DT Ole Miss
Peria Jerry could be a perfect replacement for Albert Haynesworth should he leave. He is extremely quick and agile for a 312 lb. man-child and gets into the backfield with regularity. The biggest knock on Jerry is his lack of sheer strength.
31. Arizona Cardinals LeSean McCoy RB Pitt
The Cardinals also need an offensive tackle and another athlete or two on defense but Arizona needs to address their situation at running back. McCoy wasn’t a household name last season, but he should have been. McCoy has the skills to be great in the NFL and can help the Cardinal offense to be less one-dimensional.
32. Pittsburgh Steelers Darius Butler CB Connecticut
Butler is relatively unknown at this point but his cover skills are going to be whispered about in war rooms on draft day. He is very fundamental and has a ton of field experience due to his status as a three year starter.