The NFL Draft is less than two weeks away and I, like most sports writers, are stoked about the NFL Draft. Loaded with talent, especially on the defensive end, this is one draft where no pick (even the Rams at #1) is a dead-ringer. So, here is how I think the first round will shake out. At the end, I will post the five surprises that I think could or should happen.
1. St. Louis Rams: Sam Bradford, QB Oklahoma – The Rams need almost every position, but more than anything, they need a QB and Bradford (who would have been the #1 pick last year had he declared for the draft early) is as solid a QB as you’ll get.
2. Detroit Lions: Ndamukong Suh, DT Nebraska – Suh is the best player in the draft and he will anchor a resurgent Lions defense for at least the next decade. He’s a Hall of Famer in the making.
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Gerald McCoy, DT Oklahoma – The Bucs get the #1 defensive tackle in any other draft year with a guy who can stuff the run and force double teams on almost every down. Tampa Bay hasn’t had a DT this good since Warren Sapp.
4. Washington Redskins: Russell Okung, OT Oklahoma State – The fourth Big 12 player picked, Okung is as steady as they come on the offensive line. That’s exactly what new QB Donovan McNabb needs, especially since the ‘Skins don’t pick again until No. 103.
5. Kansas City Chiefs: Eric Berry, S Tennessee – The Chiefs D flat-out sucked last year and they desperately need help at all defensive positions. So why not start with the best safety in the last five drafts? Berry should help the secondary immediately.
6. Seattle Seahawks: Trent Williams, OT Oklahoma – Superb talent that can start from day one, if he can stay committed, which is his one question mark.
7. Cleveland Browns: Dan Williams, DT Tennessee – With Shaun Rogers checking his brain with his loaded gun at an airport, the Browns, need to start looking for a replacement on the defensive line and Williams is the top nose tackle in the draft.
8. Oakland Raiders: Bruce Campbell, OT Maryland – This is way too high for the combine phenom (he’s barely a 1st rounder), but when has owner Al Davis ever made sense? Not since 1986. Campbell is a physical specimen, but will that translate to performance on the field? Davis loves speed and power. He has drafted almost strictly using this mantra which has yielded busts G Robert Gallery, QB JaMarcus Russell, WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, S Mike Mitchell in the last five years alone, and now Campbell. Expect the Raiders to be in the top 10 in next year’s draft as well.
9. Buffalo Bills: Jimmy Clausen, QB Notre Dame – The Bills need a QB in the worst way. But they need an offensive tackle first. They should take a tackle and wait until the second round to take Colt McCoy or Dan LeFevour, but they will reach for Clausen and watch him get pounded by opposing defenses all year long. If they’re smart, they’ll let starting QB Trent Edwards take the pounding and give Clausen a chance to learn how to scramble.
10. Jacksonville Jaguars: Rolando McClain, ILB Alabama – The Jags upgraded their defense by adding former Packers DE Aaron Kampman and they continue that trend by taking the best defensive player from last year’s national champions. McClain can start right away and he can be the centerpiece of a rebuilding Jags D.
11. Denver Broncos: Dez Bryant, WR Oklahoma State – Even if WR Brandon Marshall is not traded, the Broncos need offensive weapons in the worst way. After Marshall, they have Eddie Royal and that is about it. Bryant is a speedster who can stretch the field and take away the double teams that Marshall had to face all year.
12. Miami Dolphins: Derrick Morgan, DE Georgia Tech – If Bryant is available I think the Fins will snatch him up, but if not, they desperately need help on the defensive line and Morgan is the best available.
13. San Francisco 49ers: Earl Thomas, S Texas – San Fran has two of the next five picks and they will take the best available player in Thomas. In almost any other draft, he’s easily a Top 10 pick, but the Niners will gladly take this Day One starter here.
14. Seattle Seahawks: Sergio Kindle, DE/OLB Texas – The Big 12 onslaught continues with some defensive help for a Seahawks team that needs to find someone who can take the reins from the aging LB Lofa Tatupu.
15. New York Giants: Mike Iuputi, G Idaho – I watched this guy play and he is the best guard by far in this draft. He is a force and the Giants need that since they rely so heavily on the running game. If either McClain or Kindle are available, however, I think they take one of them.
16. Tennessee Titans: Jason Pierre-Paul, DE South Florida – Raw, but undeniably talented, Pierre-Paul can be molded by coach Jeff Fisher to step in immediately for the recently-departed Kyle Vanden Bosh (Detroit).
17. San Francisco 49ers: Anthony Davis, OT Rutgers – The Niners need another solid tackle and Davis fits that role.
18. Pittsburgh Steelers: Maurkice Pouncey, G/C Florida – The one thing the Steelers need more than anything (beside S Troy Polomolu healthy) is help on the offensive line. Pouncey can either anchor the line at center or he can play guard just as effectively. This is a shoo-in.
19. Atlanta Falcons: Brandon Graham, DE Michigan – The national leader in tackles for a loss will fit in perfectly on a defense that had a tough time against the run last year.
20. Houston Texans: Joe Haden, CB Florida – The Texans have no secondary with the departure of Dunta Robinson to Atlanta, but Haden can start the rebuilding immediately.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: C.J. Spiller, RB Clemson – Spiller’s free fall ends here with the Bengals looking for offensive weapons, Spiller is quite possibly the biggest offensive weapon in the draft. He would compliment RB Cedric Benson perfectly.
22. New England Patriots: Everson Griffen, DE USC – Although I think the Pats will trade out of this spot, Griffen makes sense and can atone for the Adelius Thomas mistake. (That sounds like a band name.)
23. Green Bay Packers: Charles Brown, OT USC – The Packers need to keep QB Aaron Rogers upright and Brown is the best tackle available.
24. Philadelphia Eagles: Taylor Mays, S USC – Back-to-back-to-back Trojans go off the board capped by a significant upgrade to the Eagles secondary. Mays has the potential to be the next Brian Dawkins for Philly, despite his inconsistancy.
25. Baltimore Ravens: Jermaine Gresham, TE Oklahoma – The Ravens already got WRs Anquan Boldin and Donte Stallworth to help QB Joe Flacco, now they get the best tight end on the board to compliment oft-injured Todd Heap.
26. Arizona Cardinals: Demaryius Thomas, WR Georgia Tech – The Cards need to replace Boldin and Thomas has the speed and toughness to do just that.
27. Dallas Cowboys: Kyle Wilson, CB Boise State – Wilson can help the Cowboys in the secondary and Wilson is the best available.
28. San Diego Chargers: Ryan Matthews, RB Fresno State – He would be the perfect compliment to the speedy RB Darren Sproles.
29. New York Jets: Jerry Hughes, DE/OLB TCU – He can supplant 1st round bust Vernon Gholston and upgrade an already very dominant defense.
30. Minnesota Vikings: Kareem Jackson, CB Alabama – Possible steal of the draft right here. This is where “glaring need” meets “best player available.”
31. Indianapolis Colts: Jared Odrick, DE Penn State – The Colts need some muscle on the defensive line and Odrick is the right pick. He’s not flashy, but when have the Colts D ever been flashy?
32. New Orleans Saints: Sean Witherspoon, OLB Missouri – Another perfect match of need and “best player available.” Coach Sean Payton could do wonders with Witherspoon.
Five bold predictions that should happen during the draft:
1. Some team will trade up to get C. J. Spiller, my guess, Chicago Bears. There is no way that he falls into the 20s in the first round. He is too good.
2. If Jimmy Clausen falls past the Bills at #9, another team will trade up to get him in the teens. My guess, Washington.
3. Brandon Marshall will not get traded and once the Broncos take Dez Bryant, Marshall will no longer ask to be traded. They will become the best receiving duo in the league with Brady Quinn at QB.
4. The Raiders draft will be so awful that Mel Kiper Jr. will actually grade it an F. (Last year, they took WR Darrius Heyward-Bey at #7 overall, when he was barely a 1st round prospect and S Mike Mitchell at #37 overall. Kiper Jr. had Mitchell as a borderline 5th-6th and possibly even a 7th round pick.) Kiper Jr. gave the Raiders a D- last year.
5. This will be one of those drafts that in 10 years, experts will be saying how this was one of the best drafts, talent-wise, in history.
There you go. Let me know what you think in the comments.