1. Rams: Sam Bradford, quarterback, Oklahoma.
A Redskins trade up into the No. 1 spot is out of the question following the Donovan McNabb deal. A perfect fit for St. Louis’ West Coast offense due to his incredible accuracy, underrated athleticism, and off-the-charts intelligence, Bradford is clearly Rams G.M. Billy Devaney’s top target.
2. Lions: Ndamukong Suh, defensive tackle, Nebraska.
With both Suh and Russell Okung bound to be available, draft-day debate is inevitable in Detroit’s green room. Protecting 2008 No. 1 pick Matthew Stafford should be a priority in the early rounds, but Suh offers too much value for Lions G.M. Martin Mayhew to pass. Monday’s acquisition of OG Rob Sims also decreases the likelihood that Okung would be Detroit’s pick.
3. Buccaneers: Gerald McCoy, defensive tackle, Oklahoma.
The Bucs would likely prefer Suh’s superior run-stopping ability, but McCoy will suffice as a consensus top-three player in the draft. He’d provide an immediate upgrade over incumbent three-technique tackle Ryan Sims, who managed one sack in 16 games last season.
4. Redskins: Russell Okung, offensive tackle, Oklahoma State.
The Redskins’ lone offensive line addition so far has been 31-year-old journeyman Artis Hicks, who is projected to play right guard. Stephon Heyer would be Washington’s left tackle if the season began today, so Mike Shanahan would be smart to draft the best pass protector available. He’ll need to keep McNabb upright for Sunday night’s trade to be worth it.
5. Chiefs: Bryan Bulaga, offensive tackle, Iowa.
Coming from Kirk Ferentz’s pro-style system, Bulaga’s NFL-ready skill set will appeal to the Chiefs as Matt Cassel enters a make-or-break year. He’s due a $7.5 million option bonus in 2011, and G.M. Scott Pioli owes Cassel a chance to succeed with the best supporting cast possible.
6. Seahawks: Anthony Davis, offensive tackle, Rutgers.
C.J. Spiller is also believed to be on Seattle’s radar at No. 6, but left tackle is easily Pete Carroll’s biggest need on either side of the ball, thanks to ex-G.M. Tim Ruskell’s misdoings. Though Davis’ offseason has not been stellar, his game tape speaks for itself.
7. Browns: Eric Berry, safety, Tennessee.
Dez Bryant might have been a consideration for president Mike Holmgren’s club had he delivered a strong Pro Day. Bryant didn’t, so the Browns can solidify their secondary with one of the surest prospects in this year’s draft class.
8. Raiders: Trent Williams, offensive tackle, Oklahoma.
Williams is a bit of a ‘tweener left/right tackle, but he’s ready to start on the strong side in year one, and owner Al Davis will love his measurables. Possessing the athletic ability to excel on downfield blocks, Williams is also a sensible addition because the Raiders make heavy use of zone blocking.
9. Bills: Dan Williams, defensive tackle, Tennessee.
Buffalo’s installation of a 3-4 defense won’t work without a two-gapping nose tackle to clog the middle and keep offensive guards from taking Paul Posluszny and Andra Davis out of plays. Williams has Vince Wilfork-type potential at 6’2/330 with plenty of quicks and power.
10. Jaguars: Derrick Morgan, defensive end, Georgia Tech.
The Jags’ arguably ill-advised signing of Aaron Kampman shouldn’t prevent them from taking another pass rusher early after finishing dead last in sack differential. Kampman is recovering from a torn ACL and Jacksonville’s other end, Derrick Harvey, provides next to nothing as a pocket pusher.
11. Broncos: Rolando McClain, linebacker, Alabama.
The Broncos have used the offseason to upgrade a front seven that collapsed to embarrassing levels during last year’s second half, and should keep at it. Mario Haggan is currently slated to start at “Ted” linebacker, but McClain is much better in coverage with more play-making ability.
12. Dolphins: Dez Bryant, wide receiver, Oklahoma State.
Earl Thomas and Jason Pierre-Paul should be on G.M. Jeff Ireland’s radar, but Bryant would fill a glaring need in addition to being the best player available. Bryant would replace Ted Ginn Jr. at split end, with Davone Bess, Brian Hartline, and Greg Camarillo fighting for scraps at flanker and slot receiver.
13: 49ers: Joe Haden, cornerback, Florida.
Haden vaulted his stock back into the top-15 range with a forty time in the mid-4.4s at the Gators’ March 17 Pro Day. He would be an immediate starter opposite Shawntae Spencer in San Francisco, allowing Nate Clements to convert to safety and Tarell Brown to stay at nickel back.
14. Seahawks: Kyle Wilson, cornerback, Boise State.
Perhaps the draft’s most NFL-ready corner as a four-year starter with the ability to play both zone and man coverage, Wilson won’t get out of the top-19 picks. Currently, the Seahawks’ only surefire starter in the secondary is CB Marcus Trufant, who’s coming off an awful season.
15. Giants: Mike Iupati, offensive guard, Idaho.
The Giants have a better roster than any team that went .500 or worse in 2009, but their front five declined sharply. Iupati’s addition would deservedly push left guard Rich Seubert to the bench with William Beatty taking over at left tackle and David Diehl replacing Kareem McKenzie on the right.
16. Titans: Jason Pierre-Paul, defensive end, South Florida.
The consensus among evaluators at the Combine and Pierre-Paul’s Pro Day was that his best position is end in a 4-3. He offers outrageous upside at 6’5/270 with 4.6 speed and a mammoth wingspan, and the Titans don’t have a viable in-house replacement for Kyle Vanden Bosch.
17. 49ers: C.J. Spiller, running back, Clemson.
Spiller deserves to go earlier, but top-15 selections are rarely used on tailbacks, let alone those that don’t project to be every-down, 300-carry runners. Spiller would upgrade San Francisco’s return units tremendously, and de facto G.M. Trent Baalke has publicly spoken of drafting him.
18. Steelers: Kareem Jackson, cornerback, Alabama.
Jackson was overshadowed by Javier Arenas in Nick Saban’s 3-4 defense, but started all three years and ran in the mid- to low-4.4s at the Scouting Combine. Jackson is squarely on the first-round radar, and Pittsburgh’s biggest weakness is at cornerback.
19. Falcons: Sean Weatherspoon, linebacker, Missouri.
The Falcons weren’t pleased with Stephen Nicholas’ play on the strong side last year, and weak-side ‘backer Mike Peterson turns 34 in a couple of months. A tackle machine and proven play-maker, Weatherspoon would be an upgrade over either adjacent to Curtis Lofton.
20. Texans: Ryan Mathews, running back, Fresno State.
Mathews’ incredible combination of size, speed, balance, and power compares favorably to that of any running back in the draft. With tons of experience running behind zone blocks for Bulldogs coach Pat Hill, Mathews would also have a smooth transition into Gary Kubiak’s scheme.
21. Bengals: Earl Thomas, safety, Texas.
The Bengals are high on Taylor Mays, but a safety of Thomas’ caliber wil
l be more difficult to pass
on if he falls out of the top 20. Thomas is superior to Mays in terms of ball skills, range, hip fluidity, and man-to-man cover ability.
22. Patriots: Demaryius Thomas, wide receiver, Georgia Tech.
Not only do the Pats need receiver help this year, but Randy Moss is 33 years old, entering a contract season, and doesn’t expect to re-sign with New England. Thomas, who averaged 25.1 yards per catch last year, is perhaps this draft’s most dangerous vertical threat.
23. Packers: Charles Brown, offensive tackle, USC.
G.M. Ted Thompson did well to re-sign Chad Clifton last month, but the longtime Packers left tackle turns 34 before the season and is highly unlikely to hold up for 16 games. Brown fits the mold of a Green Bay lineman with long arms and ideal athleticism for zone blocking.
24. Eagles: Patrick Robinson, cornerback, Florida State.
Philadelphia was highly dissatisfied with its 2009 secondary play, so much so that they put both of their incumbent starting cornerbacks on the trade block. With Sheldon Brown officially now in Cleveland, Robinson would push Ellis Hobbs for the Birds’ starting right corner job, allowing Macho Harris to focus on free safety.
25. Ravens: Jared Odrick, defensive tackle, Penn State.
New addition Cory Redding was initially billed as a likely starter in Baltimore, but the injury-prone underachiever would be better suited to coming off the bench. Odrick, the 2009 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, has a better chance to make an impact as a two-gapping, five-technique end with the ability to collapse the pocket.
26. Cardinals: Jermaine Gresham, tight end, Oklahoma.
The Cards figure to consider Sergio Kindle and Brandon Graham, but the former doesn’t display ideal initial burst, and the latter is on the squatty side for a 3-4 edge rusher. With Arizona moving to a more run-oriented offense, a tight end like Gresham with in-line blocking experience and pro-ready pass-catching skills is needed.
27. Cowboys: Carlos Dunlap, defensive end, Florida.
The Cowboys assigned a mere original pick tender to restricted free agent Marcus Spears, confirming that they’re not especially thrilled with the middling former first-rounder’s performance. Dunlap needs a kick in the rear from time to time, but projects as a far superior pass rusher.
28. Chargers: Terrence Cody, defensive tackle, Alabama.
San Diego’s most glaring need is at tailback, but G.M. A.J. Smith is unlikely to deem one worthy of this pick barring an unexpected slide by Spiller or Mathews. Nose tackle is next up on the Bolts’ list of weaknesses, and Cody is a monster in the middle at 6-foot-4, 350.
29. Jets: Sergio Kindle, defensive lineman, Texas.
Kindle’s times in the ten-yard split (1.65, 1.70) leave something to be desired, but his versatility will particularly appeal to hybrid defensive teams like the Jets. Kindle was productive throughout his career and has experience at defensive end, multiple linebacker positions, and on special teams.
30: Vikings: Jimmy Clausen, quarterback, Notre Dame.
We’re holding firm to our prediction that Clausen — deservedly, or undeservedly — is in for a draft-day slide. Minnesota would be an ideal situation if he does last until the 30s, however, as a year on the bench behind Brett Favre would humble Clausen and set him up to take over in 2011.
31. Colts: Brandon Graham, defensive end, Michigan.
Unlike 3-4 teams, the Colts are bigger on production than measurables when it comes to pass rushers. Graham’s short arms and sub-6’2″ height won’t turn off club president Bill Polian, who witnessed in the Super Bowl how thin his team is becoming at defensive end.
32: Saints: Everson Griffen, defensive end, USC.
Griffen is being criticized as a workout wonder after managing just eight sacks in 2009 before dominating drills at the Combine and his Pro Day. However, Griffen did pace USC in the statistic, and last year’s 9-4 Trojans failed to generate as many pass-rushing opportunities as usual.