It’s almost here….the NFL Combine is about to begin!
Beginning on Wednesday, hundreds of potential NFL players will put their athletic abilities on display for all of the NFL to see.
Coaches, Scouts, and General Managers will be on hand at Lucas Oil Stadium to watch with an eagle eye, a stop watch, and a notebook to record every detail they can about this year’s crop of top collegiate talent.
With millions of dollars at stake in future contracts the pressure is on to have a great workout and take this opportunity to make a name for themselves.
Here’s my final 1st round Mock Draft pre-Combine:
1. St. Louis Rams: Ndamukong Suh, DT, Nebraska- I really think that the Rams will trade this pick. The Bucs have made an offer that would include swapping 1st round picks and other teams have expressed interest in getting this pick as well. Suh projects as a “can’t miss” player, but the Rams have bigger needs than at DT. Since neither Claussen or Bradford have done anything to warrant the first pick in the draft Suh becomes a safe choice for the Rams if they decide to keep it. My prediction is that they’ll trade this pick and take a QB at their new spot.
2. Detroit Lions:Gerald McCoy, DT, Oklahoma- Some scouts have reported that McCoy has closed the gap between himself and Suh, others even say he’s even leap frogged Suh. Either way the Lions will be happy to take which ever one is left. The Lions have major defensive issues and adding a big DT is a step in the right direction.
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Eric Berry, S, Tennessee- Never before has a defensive back been drafted amongst the top 3 picks in the draft, but Berry could be the first. The Bucs really want Suh or McCoy, but if a trade isn’t completed the Bucs should use this pick on Berry. Berry can play safety or corner at the NFL and in a division with the Saints and Falcons the Bucs need help for Aquib Talib in the secondary, especially since the “other” Barber is getting old.
4. Washington Redskins: Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma- This is where I see the draft getting interesting. I’m not sold that the Redskins will take Bradford, but I think this is where Bradford will be drafted regardless of whether it’s by the ‘skins or not. With several teams like Seattle, Cleveland, Buffalo, and Jacksonville (all drafting inside the top 10) all needing QB’s this would be the spot that they would need to get to in order to draft the one they want whether it’s Bradford or Claussen.
5. Kansas City Chiefs: Dez Bryant, WR, Oklahoma State- I know I have Bryant going higher than most, but I honestly don’t think Todd Haley can pass on having another duo of dynamic WR’s like he did in Arizona. Keep in mind that Dwayne Bowe has been in Haley’s dog house and surely the 4 game suspension didn’t help mend the fence, so it’s always a possibility that Bowe could get dealt. Bottom line, only Dez Bryant and Joe Haden have this in common…they are the only two players at their positions that are clearly head and shoulders above guy #2.
6. Seattle Seahawks: Jimmy Claussen, QB, Notre Dame- With Pete Carroll in town I fully expect the Seahawks to draft a QB in the 1st round. The team already has Matt Hasselbeck on the roster which should give Claussen a few games to watch from the sidelines before Hasselbeck gets hurt and Claussen takes over the gig permanently.
7. Cleveland Browns: Joe Haden, CB, Florida- Haden should send 20% of his contract to Darrelle Revis for getting him drafted this high. Revis showed us that having a true shut down corner can change the game. With the Brown’s divisional opponents having Ben Roethlisberger, Carson Palmer, and Joe Flacco, Joe Haden gives the Browns somebody to try and stop them.
8. Oakland Raiders: Derrick Morgan, DE, Georgia Tech- Derrick Morgan is everything that Al Davis looks for in a 1st round pick. He’s tall, fast, and strong. The Raiders traded away next year’s 1st round pick for Richard Seymour and there’s some doubt about Seymour wanting to stay in Oakland past this season. Drafting Morgan gives the Raiders some insurance on Seymour and a heck of a pass rusher.
9. Buffalo Bills: Russell Okung, OT, Oklahoma State- The Bills still don’t have a QB, but at least now Okung gives them someone to protect whomever it is. It still amazes me that the Bills traded away Jason Peters last year, especially since they never replaced him with anybody worthy. Okung should be able to step in and be their starting left tackle from day 1.
10. Jacksonville Jaguars: Anthony Davis, OT, Rutgers- It’s a very light draft for tackles and the Bills knocked over the first domino by taking Okung. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Jags will be the team that moves up to the #4 spot to get a QB, especially since there is some doubt about the franchise’s future in Jacksonville. With their backs against the wall, giving up some of their future picks might be worth it for the Jags if they want to sell some tickets now. If the Jags keep this pick, Davis would be a great asset for their O-Line…he’s a mauler.
11. Denver Broncos: Carlos Dunlap, DE, Florida- 6’8″ defensive ends like Dunlap don’t grow on trees and the Broncos could use the help off the edge. The Combine will be critical for Dunlap as he’ll need to explain his DUI and suspension at the end of the season. If he passes the interviews and shows his speed during the workouts it will be hard for the Broncos to let Dunlap get past them.
12. Miami Dolphins: Renaldo McClain, LB, Alabama- Bill Parcells knows that he needs a MLB to lead his defense and McClain is the best of the crop. McClain blends speed and power, not to mention a good head on his shoulders which should be enough for McClain to a become a star in the NFL. Leave it to Parcells to get the most out of his picks. McClain is a top 5 talent that Parcells steals at #12.
13. San Francisco 49ers: Mike Iupati, OL, Idaho- The 49ers need to improve their O-Line and Iupati is at worst a stud guard, possibly a great tackle. Regardless Iupati is a very safe pick for the 49ers and has been compared to some of the league’s best guards already.
14. Seattle Seahawks: C.J. Spiller, RB, Clemson- It’s a new day in Seattle and draft day will be the new beginning for the Seahawks if they get Jimmy Claussen and C.J. Spiller at #6 and #14. Spiller has tremendous speed and quickness, but some are worried about his durability. Either way his talent is to great to pass up.
15. New York Giants: Brian Price, DT, UCLA- The Giants love to pressure the QB and Price will allow their DE’s to do it better. Price is a monster in the middle and will force double teams inside, making it impossible for the opposition to stop their edge rushers. I’m sure the Giants would love to see McClain fall to them here, since they recently released Antonio Pierce, but they’ll be happy with Price in the long run.
16. Tennessee Titans: Jason Paul-Pierre, DE, USF- JPP as I like to call him has burst onto the 1st round draft scene this season. He’s extremely talented, but also extremely raw…does that remind you of somebody they used to call “The Freak” in Tennessee? Javon Kearse wasn’t quite as raw as JPP is, but the Titans never shy from a defensive player with big potential and they tend to be right, more than they’re wrong.
17. San Francisco 49ers: Bryan Bulaga, OL, Iowa- Two tackle/guards in the first round are you crazy? Well you would be if you didn’t have as many holes on the offensive line as the 49ers do. 49ers fans won’t be thrilled by taking Iupati and Bulaga, but I’d rather make sure I get my offensive line in check with two safe picks than draft purely on upside talent. It’s not sexy for the 49ers, but it sure gets the job done.
18. Pittsburgh Steelers:Dan Williams, DT, Tennessee- The Steelers need somebody like Williams to take over for Casey Hampton at NT. Don’t under estimate Williams because of where he gets picked, his value is hurt with Suh and McCoy in the same draft class. Williams should force inside double teams which would allow the Steelers to bring all the pressure they’d like. Remember last season they drafted Ziggy Hood to play the 3-4 DE, so Williams would make sense as they look to add youth to their front 3 on defense.
19. Atlanta Falcons: Kyle Wilson, CB, Boise State- I’m really glad that Wilson has been so impressive to NFL scouts and finally we’ll see a Boise State player make an impact at the next level. Wilson brings grit and savvy to a team that couldn’t cover anybody last season. I’m positive that the Falcons draft a defensive player here, but it could also come from another position, because their D has so many gaping holes.
20. Houston Texans: Earl Thomas, S, Texans- The Texans draft a Long Horn with this pick and help their secondary. Offensively the Texans are strong with Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson, and Owen Daniels, however at some point they’ll need to draft a RB to pair with “Mr. Fumbles” Steve Slaton, but I think they’ll do that later. If the Texans are looking to take over the division from the Colts soon, they’re going to need some help in the secondary and Thomas looks like the real deal. Anybody that watched him in the BCS National Championship knows how hard this kid plays.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Jermaine Gresham, TE, Oklahoma- It was pretty embarrassing in the playoffs when the Bengals lost to the Jets because they had nobody other than Ochocinco to through the ball to (whom was blanketed by D. Revis). Everybody loves Gresham’s talent, but I’d be scared off by his injury history. Gresham already has sustained injuries to both knees at this stage of his career and that would be enough for me to pass on him in the 1st round, but these are the Bengals we’re talking about so logic is not always guaranteed with their personnel decisions.
22. Philadelphia Eagles:Jared Odrick, DL, Penn State- Eagles fans would love it if they drafted Odrick, the former Nittany Lion in the 1st round. Odrick is a high motor guy that can play anywhere on the D-Line, exactly the type of player that Andy Reid loves.
23. Green Bay Packers: Trent Williams, OT, Oklahoma- Poor Aaron Rodgers. That guy took more of a beating than any other QB in the league last season. The Packers know that they’ve got a great QB, but will need to keep him upright if they really want to be Super Bowl contenders. I like Williams over Maryland’s Bruce Campbell because I think Williams is more prepared to start now, while Campbell might have a higher upside, he is more of a project.
24. New England Patriots: Aaron Hernandez, TE, Florida- The Pats love to create mis-matches, which is why Wes Welker has been so incredible for them. With Welker probably sidelined for a while as he recovers from injury, Hernandez would give the Pats another mis-match receiving option. Hernandez is shorter and lighter than most TE’s, but he’s still a solid blocker and a great pass catcher. Hernanadez is an impossible cover, he’s too fast for a LB and too big for a CB or safety. He reminds me of Dallas Clark a little and that would be scary for the rest of the league for Tom Brady to have another great weapon. The Pats are always a wild card at the draft, but taking Hernandez here would be a smart move.
25. Baltimore Ravens: Brandon Graham, DE, Michigan- I honestly believe that the Ravens will not be selecting in this slot. They will either move up to get somebody that has slipped or move back to amass more picks (my preference). With that said and playing along, Ozzie Newsome always stays true to his draft board and if Graham slips this far, Ozzie’s going to snatch him up. The Ravens really struggled putting pressure on the opposition’s QB and that’s exactly what Graham does best. Graham had a great Senior Bowl (he won the MVP) and dominated some of the Big Ten’s best LT’s this season. This pick will frustrate some Ravens fans because Graham doesn’t catch the ball, but getting a Dwight Freeney-esque type player would be to good to pass up this late in the 1st round and Ozzie always goes after “the best player available”. I know the Ravens already have Suggs and drafted Paul Kruger last year, but you can never have enough guys to get after the QB and having fresh legs helps you do that. Remember, I don’t think the Ravens will be selecting at #25 come draft night.
26. Arizona Cardinals: Bruce Campbell, OT, Maryland- Kurt Warner is gone and now it’s Matt Leinart’s team. Drafting a bruising bodyguard for Leinart would be in the Cardinals best interest. Campbell is physical monster, but needs to develop all of his raw potential.
27. Dallas Cowboys: Sean Witherspoon, LB, Missouri- Witherspoon was amazing during the Senior Bowl and greatly improved his stock. This guys is a tackling monster and a vocal leader. His leadership at the collegiate level reminds me of Ray Lewis, but that’s a lofty comparison regarding team leadership. Adding Witherspoon to a defense that already has DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Weaver would be nasty for a team that is expected to make a serious Super Bowl run.
28. San Diego Chargers: Jonathan Dwyer, RB, Georgia Tech- The Chargers just released LaDanian Tomlinson so it’s obvious that the Chargers will be targeting a RB somewhere in the draft. Dwyer played in Tech’s option style offense, but he’s a rugged rusher that could be the “thunder” to Darren Sproles “lightning”.
29. New York Jets: Sergio Kindle, LB, Texas- Kindle would be a great addition for an already stacked New York defense. The Jets could use some help blitzing the QB from the outside in their 3-4 defense and Kindle can do it all from the outside linebacker position. It’s scary to think about the Jets defense getting better in year two under Rex Ryan.
30. Minnesota Vikings: Taylor Mays, S, USC- If Brett Favre comes back (here we go again) the Vikings are instantly Super Bowl contenders. With or without Favre the Vikings need to improve their secondary and Mays, even with his short comings would do that. Mays is a vicious hitter, but lacks coverage skills, however everybody knows that the Packers (the Vikings biggest rival) love to run the slant route and Mays could deter Donald Driver and Greg Jennings from going across the middle. I don’t like Mays on a lot of NFL teams, but the Vikings could be a perfect fit for the Trojan safety.
31. Indianapolis Colts: Charles Brown, OL, USC- The Colts will always be a Super Bowl contender when Peyton Manning is there and healthy, but he could use some insurance and protection. Brown is a solid tackle that has played in a pro-style system in college which will help his adjustment to the NFL. The Colts O-line is getting on in age and Charles Brown would help bridge the gap.
32. New Orleans Saints: Navaro Bowman, LB, Penn State- Every other team in the NFL wishes they were drafting in this spot, because that would mean they’d won the Lombardi Trophy. The Saints draft Bowman to add to their much improved defense and add depth to the LB corp. Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams loves to blitz and having a multi talented OLB like Bowman would be a solid fit. The champs will only get better after this draft, taking Bowman here is a good start.