I know there are two more games in the 2009 NFL regular season, but for a draft obsessed foul like myself, it’s never to early to start thinking about next season. Obviously a lot will happen from now until the draft, with the NFL Combine still nearly two months away, but with the bowl season gearing up it’s worth taking a crack at it.
1. St. Louis Rams: Jimmy Clausen, QB Notre Dame - The Rams need to address the quarterback position. Marc Bulger will be a free agent, Kyle Boller proved a change in scenary didn’t help him, and the experiment with rookie Keith Null hasn’t gone well so far (2 TD’s and 6 INT’s). The Rams have a decent offensive line, a stud running back (Steven Jackson), and have recently used top draft picks on the defensive side of the ball, therefore even with Ndamukong Suh available, the Rams realize that without a quarterback in this league you have nothing. Clausen is “pro ready” after spending time in Charlie Weiss’ system at Notre Dame and a must have for the Rams.
2. Detroit Lions: Ndamukong Suh, DT Nebraska- Lions fans better get used to learning how to say Suh’s name (pronounced Soo) because this guy is exactly what this franchise needs. Coach Jim Schwartz is a defensive minded coach and since the Lions are currently ranked dead last in the NFL in points allowed, yards allowed, and passing yards allowed Suh is a perfect fit. Suh will immediatley help the Lions defense, especially with his size (6’4″ 300 lbs) and versatility on the line to play both tackle and end. A big showing by Suh at the NFL Combine could make him to hard for the Rams not to take first overall.
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Eric Berry, S Tennessee- When you play in the same division as Drew Brees and Matt Ryan you better have some players that can defend the pass. Berry is extremely talented and his playmaking abilities out of the safety position have been compared to Ed Reed. The Bucs have plenty of needs, but drafting Berry to play with Aqib Talib would give them a very good foundation to build their defense around.
4. Kansas City Cheifs: Dez Bryant, WR Okalahoma State- What did Todd Haley have in Arizona? Wide Receivers, two of them (Boldin and Fitzgerald). The Cheifs have big time needs on defense, but Haley is offensive minded and I think they grab the best receiver in the draft and pair Bryant with Dwayne Bowe to give Matt Cassel some young playmakers to throw the ball to.
5. Cleveland Browns: Sam Bradford, QB Oklahoma- Mike Holmgren just signed on to be the “czar” in Cleveland and I don’t think he wants his “Browns legacy” on Brady Quinn’s arm. Holmgren drafts his own QB to rebuild the team around and to create a new excitement in Cleveland. If Bradford has a good pro-day before the draft I think teams won’t be concerned about his shoulder and he will once again be in the debate of best quarterback in the draft.
6. Washington Redskins:Russell Okung, OT Oklahoma State- If Okung falls to the Redskins at #6 they will have to feel as lucky as when Brian Orakpo fell to them at #13 last year. The Redskins need help on the O-line and Okung is best tackle in the draft (a weak draft for lineman). Okung takes over for Chris Samuels at left tackle and begins the rebuilding of the ‘skins offensive line.
7. Buffalo Bills: Gerald McCoy, DT Oklahoma- The Bills draft McCoy here because he’s the most physical and dominant player left on the board, but bet the house that they’d take Okung if available. The Bills add McCoy to the defensive line with Aaron Maybin, Aaron Schobel, and Marcus Stroud making their d-line the team’s biggest strength.
8. Oakland Raiders: Rolando McClain, LB Alabama- Al Davis loves drafting physical specimens and McClain fits that mold. At 6’4″ 254lbs McClain gives the Raiders an inside linebacker to play behind their improved defensive line. McClain should impress at the NFL Combine, which is all Davis will need to see before he drafts McClain.
9. Seattle Seahawks: C.J. Spiller, RB Clemson- Unless the Seahawks are sold on Justin Forsett being their running back of the future they draft Spiller. With blazing speed and good hands Spiller becomes an immediate playmaker in Seattle. Add in Spiller’s excellent kick return abilities and this is a no brainer pick for Seattle.
10. Denver Broncos (from Chicago Bears): Joe Haden, CB Florida- The Cutler trade looks even better since the Bears 1st round pick is a top ten pick. The Broncos got off to their hot start this season due their defensive tenacity and they stay focused on that side of the ball in the draft. The Broncos draft Haden to learn from Champ Bailey and hope that he becomes Bailey’s heir apparent in a few years.
11. San Francisco 49ers: Derrick Morgan, DE Georgia Tech- The 49ers add one of the premier pass rushers in the draft with Morgan. They already have one of the best MLB’s in Patrick Willis and a solid corner back in Nate Clements, however they’re missing a big time pass rushing end. At 6’4″ 275lbs, Morgan has the size, speed, and strength to be a double digit sack guy in the NFL.
12. San Francisco 49ers (from Carolina Panthers): Bryan Bulaga, OL Iowa- I’ve always said that you get your playmakers from the SEC and your offensive lineman from the Big Ten. The 49ers need to upgrade their O-line and Bulaga can play tackle or guard.
13. Houstonb Texans: Terrance Cody, DT Alabama- Imagine having to block Mario Williams and Cody on the defensive line? Terrance Cody is a massive individual (6’5″ 365 lbs) that will force opponents to double team him inside, leaving Williams more flexability to get after the quarterback. Cody has been more of NT in the 3-4, but I think the Texans will help him learn their style. This pick is all about getting after Peyton Manning and stopping Chris Johnson.
14. New York Jets: Carlos Dunlap, DE Florida- Yeah Dunlap fell asleep in his car and was charged with a DUI, but when it comes down to it 6’6″ 290 lbs, defensive ends like this don’t grow on trees. Rex Ryan jumps all over a defensive player like Dunlap where he has a history of coaching players with bad reputations. If Dunlap matures he could eventually become an annual double digit sack master.
15. Tennessee Titans: Jerry Hughes, OLB/DE TCU- The Titans need to improve their secondary, but with a limited crop of corners available, they take a versatile defensive player that can pressure the quarterback. If you can’t cover the opposition’s receivers, you sure better be able to put serious pressure on their quarteback and that’s what Hughes does.
16. Jacksonville Jaguars: Anthony Davis, OT Rutgers- The Jaguars might entertain drafting a quarterback here and that could mean Tim Tebow or Ryan Mallet, but I think they look to improve their O-line and give Maurice Jones-Drew and David Garrard some better blocking. Drafting Davis here would allow either Eugene Monroe or Eben Britton to move inside to guard.
17. Atlanta Falcons: Taylor Mays, S USC- The Falcons can’t stop the pass at all, however that’s not Mays specialty. Even though Mays struggles against the pass, he displays his hard hitting ability to make the opponents receivers forget about going over the middle. At 6’3″ 230 lbs Mays has linebacker size and strength, yet is quick enough to play in the secondary. Mays has been compared to Roy Williams due to both players highlight big hits, however like Williams, Mays struggles in pass coverage.
18. Miami Dolphins: Dan Williams, DT Tennessee- Bill Parcells loves him some defense and Williams (6’3″ 327 lbs) will be that inside force that Parcells looks for at the center of attack. Add Williams to that young and improving Dolphins defense with Channing Chrowder and Vontae Davis and I think the ‘phins will soon have a top 10 defense for years to come.
19. Pittsburgh Steelers: Earl Thomas, S Texas- Clearly the Steelers have issues at saftey. Yes they do have one of the best in the game already there, but we’ve seen what happens when Troy Polamalu isn’t playing. The Steelers draft Thomas, especially with Ryan Clark becoming a free agent after this season.
20. New York Giants: Brandon Spikes, ILB Florida- The Giants lost several players to injury in their secondary this season, yet once they return their problem their isn’t as bad as it currently looks. Spikes would be the perfect complement behind that great defensive line the Giants have and with Antonio Pierce getting older I think linebacker is an area they will need to address come draft day.
21. Denver Broncos: Jermaine Gresham, TE Oklahoma- Gresham could have been a top 10 pick this year, however a season ending injury will probably derail that. With a solid O-line in place, a rookie running back (Moreno), solid decision making QB (Orton), and talented receivers (Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal) the Broncos could use a supremely talented tight end like Gresham to complete their versatility on offense. Adding Gresham to the mix in Denver could be something that Josh McDaniels can’t pass up.
22. Baltimore Ravens: Golden Tate, WR Notre Dame- The Ravens desperatley need to focus on adding a wide receiver to develop with Joe Flacco and since Dez Bryant is long gone at this point in the draft, Tate is the best of what’s left. Tate is undersized (5’11″ 195 lbs) at his position, but Tate is a huge playmaker with amazingly reliable hands. While Tate doesn’t have the physical stature the Ravens have been looking for in their future #1 receiver, but he reminds me of Steve Smith (Carolina) and Percy Harvin, which isn’t bad. Tate is a huge playmaker with great hands, I think Tate could easily become a 80+ reception receiver for the Ravens sooner than later.
23. Arizona Cardinals: Aaron Hernandez, TE Florida- Assuming that the Cardinals lose at least one of their receivers (Boldin or Breaston) they will be looking to the draft to find their replacement. While Hernandez is labeled as a tight end, he is extremely versatile and can be lined up anywhere offensively. Hernandez reminds me of a young Tony Gonzalez or Chicago’s Greg Olsen.
24. Dallas Cowboys: Brandon Graham, LB Michigan- The Cowboys have nice offensive weapons thanks to the success of Miles Austin holding down that top WR spot, but they are weak at linebacker. Graham brings great pressure and is as relaible a tackler as there is in this draft.
25. Cincinnatti Bengals: Everson Griffin, DE USC- The Bengals will look to continue to improve their defense and adding a pass rushing end like Griffin will help. The Bengals caught lightning in a bottle earlier this season with Antawn Odom, but since his injury they have struggled to get to the quarterback. Drafting Everson will give them depth and fresh legs to keep the pressure coming off the edge.
26. Green Bay Packers: Trent Williams, OT Oklahoma- There is no doubt that the Packers need to improve their offensive line, after all the Packers line has allowed Aaron Rodgers to be sacked a league leading 49 times and he’s been hit 86 times. If the Packers don’t want Rodgers to live in an ice tub they’ll draft him some blocking help.
27. New England Patriots: Greg Hardy, DE Ole Miss- After trading away Richard Seymour at the beginning of the season, the Pats will need to address the position in the draft. Hardy’s stock has dropped because of injuries, but given the chance to show his skills at the Combine and at his pro-day, his talents will shine through and Pats need an end to rush the quarterback.
28. Philadelphia Eagles: Navorro Bowman, LB Penn State- Here comes another from “Linebacker U”. The Eagles biggest weakness is at linebacker, where age and injuries have hurt them all season. Bowman is a “do it all” type linebacker that can blitz or cover the pass. The Eagles always impress me with their drafting and I suspect this year will be no different.
29. San Diego Chargers: Jahvid Best, RB California-Eventually the Chargers will have to move on from LT and with Best slipping this far down the draft they will have no choice but to take the Cali kid. Best is a dynamic playmaker that can do it all from his position.
30. Minnesota Vikings: Patrick Robinson, CB Florida State- The Vikes are pretty stacked at nearly every position, however they do need some help in the secondary. Robinson is an experienced senior and will help the Vikings in the area they’re the weakest.
31. New Orleans Saints: Sean Witherspoon, LB Missouri- With Jonathan Vilma at MLB, the Saints could use some help on the outside. Witherspoon has good size (6’2″ 242 lbs) and is a tackling machine after recording over 100 tackles this season. Clearly the Saints don’t need much help on the offensive side of the ball, so I would expect defense to be their focus in the draft.
32. Indianapolis Colts: Jason Paul-Pierre, DE South Florida- Pass rushing has been a strength for the Colts all season, but adding a 6’6″ 257 lbs is to good to pass up. Raheem Morris and Robert Mathis will both be free agents in a year and you can never have enough pass rushing ends. Paul-Pierre and Dwight Freeney could be a scary sight for the opposition’s quarterback.