1. Detroit Lions: Eugene Monroe, tackle, Virginia.
The smart move for the Lions is to avoid making the financial investment in a coin-flip proposition at quarterback. Major questions exist regarding Matt Stafford and Mark Sanchez, so the safest pick for a franchise in need of reversing a decade of horrible performances is a tackle who could nail down the left side of the line for the next ten years, or more.
2. St. Louis Rams: Jason Smith, tackle, Baylor.
The offensive line has been the biggest liability in St. Louis over the past couple of years. The Rams swung and missed with Alex Barron four years ago, and with Orlando Pace now gone they need to get the best offensive lineman still on the board.
3. Kansas City Chiefs: Aaron Curry, linebacker, Wake Forest.
With the quarterback situation under control via the trade for Matt Cassel, the Chiefs can focus on a guy who could end up conjuring memories of Derrick Thomas in the 3-4 defense the Chiefs are incorporating.
4. Seattle Seahawks: Mark Sanchez, quarterback, USC.
Matt Hasselbeck will be 34 in September, and he has been showing signs of wear and tear. With a new coaching regime and Hasselbeck having maybe two solid years left, now is the time to begin grooming his successor. (And with receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh acquired via free agency, there’s simply no reason to take a chance on Michael Crabtree.)
5. Cleveland Browns: Brian Orakpo, linebacker/defensive end, Texas.
With Curry gone, new Browns coach Eric Mangini needs a pass rusher for the 3-4 front. As an added benefit, Mangini’s selection and development of Orakpo could stick it to the Jets and G.M. Mike Tannenbaum, who picked overhyped workout warrior Vernon Gholston a year ago.
6. Cincinnati Bengals: Andre Smith, tackle, Alabama.
If any team isn’t troubled by the shirtless Jello buffet that emerged last week in Alabama, that team will be the Bengals. Smith fits a clear need given the departure of Stacey Andrews. In Cincinnati, Andre “the Giant . . . Boobs” could play the right side until Levi Jones leaves or calls it quits.
7. Oakland Raiders: Michael Crabtree, receiver, Texas Tech.
The Raiders supposedly showed mild interest in T.O. because they think that Crabtree will be on the board at No. 7. Under this scenario, he is. And thus the Red Raider becomes a silver and black one.
8. Jacksonville Jaguars: Jeremy Maclin, receiver, Missouri.
With Tra Thomas signed for three years, there’s no longer a pressing need for a left tackle. So the Jags can instead focus on the position that has been a chronic weakness in Jacksonville for years.
We also don’t rule out a trade up to No. 6 — the Jags could steal Crabtree from the Raiders and the Bengals could still get Smith, at a lower price and with an extra pick or two arising from the transaction.
Or it could be that the Raiders are putting out smoke signals that the want Crabtree so that the Jags won’t jump to No. 6 in order to get Maclin before Oakland can squat on his rights.
9. Green Bay Packers: Malcolm Jenkins, defensive back, Ohio State.
Cornerbacks Al Harris and
Rod Charles Woodson are climbing the 30s ladder, and the decision to tender Atari Bigby, a restricted free agent, at the second-round level suggests that the Packers don’t view him as a cornerstone of the defense. Jenkins can become a long-term contributor at one position or the other.
10. San Francisco 49ers: Josh Freeman, quarterback, Kansas State.
Freeman’s stock is rising, and the Niners get their version of Oakland’s JaMarcus Russell.
11. Buffalo Bills: Michael Oher, tackle, Mississippi.
With a trade of Jason Peters coming sooner or later, the Bills need a guy like Oher to help keep defenders away from Trent Edwards. So that he can throw passes to Terrell Owens. So that he can drop them.
12. Denver Broncos: B.J. Raji, defensive tackle, Boston College.
In the first season post-Shanahan, the Broncos address a defensive line that the long-time coach was never able to significantly improve.
13. Washington Redskins: Aaron Maybin, defensive end, Penn State.
The arrival of Albert Haynesworth and the departure of Jason Taylor puts the team in the market for a high-end defensive end. Maybin is the best one on the board.
14. New Orleans Saints: Knowshon Moreno, running back, Georgia.
If the Saints were interested in LaDainian Tomlinson, then they’re looking for a guy who can beef up the running game. Though they need help on defense, the offense-biased Sean Payton won’t be able to resist a man like Moreno.
15. Houston Texans: Brian Cushing, linebacker, USC.
Rey Maualuga’s available, but the Texans have DeMeco Ryans. A trade down is a possibility here, too. Especially with Matthew Stafford on the board and the Jets desperate for a quarterback at No. 17.
16. San Diego Chargers: Everette Brown, linebacker/defensive end, Florida State.
With Igor Olshansky gone and Shawne Merriman possibly not far behind, a guy like Brown could try both line and linebacker at the NFL level before finding his best fit.
1. Detroit Lions: Eugene Monroe, tackle, Virginia.