I would like to discuss the philosophy behind how teams draft. Specifically, should teams draft for need or do you take the best player available regardless of need? I think my Detroit Lions serve as the perfect example to answer this question. In the Matt Millen era, their record clearly shows that in the first round the Lions look the best player on their board regardless of his position or their needs (think WR's like Charles Rogers, Roy Williams, Mike Williams, and finally Calvin Johnson) while in the later rounds they fell in love with players at positions of need and reached or even traded up to take those players much earlier than they were projected to go. The correct answer to the question at hand is that in the early rounds teams need to take the best player available AT A POSITION OF NEED, while in the later rounds you simply have to take the best player available regardless of the position. The Lions approached the draft completely back-asswards, and as a result had some of the worst draft results in NFL history over the past 9 years.
With that being said, and after trying to sort through all of the legitimate inforamation, rumors and smokescreens, here is my final mock draft for 2009.
1. Detroit Lions - Matt Stafford - QB, Georgia; In spite of all the questions surrounding Matt Stafford, the Lions decide to mortgage their next five years on their assumption that he can be a franchise NFL QB in spite of a college career that never quite lived up to expectation.
2. St. Louis Rams - Jason Smith - T, Baylor; Alex Barron has been a disappointment thus far, so it is way too much of a reach to assume that he can transition to LT in the wake of Orlando Pace's departure. The Rams absolutely need a franchise LT, and Jason Smith has a little more upside than Eugene Monroe.
3. Kansas City Chiefs - Aaron Curry - LB, Wake Forrest; The Chiefs would like to trade down, but instead go with Curry as a dominant linebacker to anchor their new defensive scheme. I truly believe that the Tyson Jackson rumors are just a smokescreen to guage Denver's interest in him since they have two fist round picks to move up, as Kansas City needs a rush end over a run stuff end like Jackson. While Curry was not asked to rush the passer in college, he seems to have the skill-set to be able to do so in the pros if called upon.
4. Seattle Seahawks - Eugene Monroe - T, Virginia.; The QB rumors are just a smokescreen. Matt Hasselbeck appears healthy, and the team desperately needs help on the offensive line.
5. Cleveland Browns - Brian Orakpo - DE, Texas; The Browns desperately need to get to the quarterback. While they are rumoured to be interested in B.J. Raji, there is simply no way that they would start or pay a three DT's in Shawn Rogers, Corey Williams and B.J. Raji in a 3-4 scheme. Their interior DL is already set, and the Browns desperately need an outside pass rusher like Orakpo.
6. Cincinnati Bengals - Andre Smith- OT, Alabama; The Tank Johnson signing lets the Bengals concentrate on their offensive line problems. While Smith's meltdown at the Combine causes him to slide from the first to the third tackle selected in the draft, the Bengals can't pass up a windfall at their position of biggest need.
7. Oakland Raiders - Michael Crabtree, WR - Texas Tech; The Raiders need to give Jamarcus Russell a receiving threat, and Crabtree is as good as there is in this year's draft.
8. Jacksonville Jaguars - Jeremy Maclin, WR - Missiouri; Even with Torry Holt signing in Jacksonville, a rookie receiver to play opposite and learn from him still makes sense. I think the Jags will trade down here with a suitor for Mark Sanchez, and still be able to acquire Maclin.
9. Green Bay Packers - B.J. Raji, DT - Boston College.; The Packers turn to the prototypical NT to anchor their new 3-4 defense and go for the 'tweener DE/LB's in later rounds.
10. San Francisco 49'ers - Aaron Maybin, DE/LB - Penn St; I think that the 49'ers wind up the big losers at the #10 spot. Neither Maclin nor Crabtree end up falling to them at WR, and Sanchez shoots so far up the board that San Francisco is forced to pick a hybrid DE in Maybin.
11. Buffalo Bills - Michael Oher, T - Ole Miss; After trading Jason Peters to Philly, Buffalo has an immediate need at LT. While they could use a DE or a TE like Brandon Pettigrew, there is no guarantee that a true LT will fall to their second first round pick at # 28. Accordingly, they have no choice but to go with Michael Oher, as Langston Walker simply does not project to the left side.
12. Denver Broncos - Tyson Jackson, DE - LSU; Rumor is that Jackson could now go before Denver picks at #12, which simply makes no sense since he is a run stopping end as opposed to a pass rusher. I simply can't see an end who will be off the field on third downs going in the top ten. If a team tries to bluff Denver into trading up for Jackson, I think they pass. On the other hand, with San Diego apparently having an interest in Jackson at #16, the Broncos take Jackson, a prototypical 3-4 DE, if he falls to #12 and see what other defensive needs are available at #18.
13. Washington "Pigskins" - Robert Ayers DE - Tennessee; After releasing Jason Taylor, the "Pigskins" still need a pass rush specialist.
14. New Orleans Saints - Michael Jenkins, CB/S - Ohio State; While the Saints have used free agency to plug their biggest holes at LB and CB, Jenkins' versatility in being able to play CB or S makes him too valuable to pass up.
15. Houston Texans - Brian Cushing, OLB - USC; In spite of the Texans signing some stop gap free agent linebackers, they go with a long term solution in Brian Cushing since New Orleans takes Jenkins one spot ahead of them.
16. San Diego Chargers - Rey Maualuga, MLB - USC; If Maualuga falls this far, the thought of him teaming with a healthy Sean Merriman is downright frightening.
17. New York Jets - Mark Sanchez, QB - USC; I think the Jets trade into the top ten to pick Sanchez. The team is too good and too playoff ready to rely upon Kellen Clemens as their sole option at quarterback. The more I think about the Chiefs' interest in Tyson Jackson, the more I wonder if that interest isn't at the 17th spot (following a trade with the Jets), one pick before Denver picks at #18, who are known to have an interest in Jackson as well.
18. Denver Broncos (from Chicago Bears) - Everett Brown, DE/LB - Florida State; The Broncos go with the best 3-4 pass rush DE/LB coming into the draft. The Broncos hope that he fares better than his Florida State counter parts over the past decade.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Josh Freeman, QB - Kansas State; In spite of the Byron Leftwich signing, the Bucs still need a long term answer at QB. Leftwich merely gives the team a veteran mentor/insurance policy in case Freeman happens to be gone by the time they pick.
20. Detroit Lions (from Dallas Cowboys) - Peria Jerry, DT - Ole Miss; The Lions need a run stuff defensive tackle to play opposite, and eventually take over for Grady Jackson.
21. Philadelphia Eagles - Knowshon Moreno, RB - Georgia; The Eagles solidified their offensive line by trading for Jason Peters. Assuming that they don't use their second #1 pick to trade for a WR, Knowshon Moreno seems like the choice to take over some of Brian Westbrook's between the takcles workload.
22. Minnesota Vikings - Percy Harvin, WR - Florida; Harvin's off the field issues may not be a good fit with Minnesota, but his overall talent and ability to make plays does. When it comes to talent alone, Harvin is viewed as a clear top 25 player.
23. New England Patriots - Clay Mathews, OLB - USC; New England filled their secondary holes with Lee Bodden & Shawn Springs. The Pats always need LB's in their 3-4 defense, and that is especially true this year since they are aging at that position. Clay Mathews should be able to step in and contribute right away.
24. Atlanta Falcons - Ziggy Hood, DT - Missouri; With Atlanta trading for Tony Gonzalez, they can let Pettigrew slide and concentrate on defense. I hear that Vontae Davis is not a consideration at CB because of character, and with the 3 USC LB's that they covet already off the board, they take a DT to help with their run defense.
25. Miami Dolphins - Kenny Britt, WR - Rutgers; I really have a hard time seeing Bill Parcels draft an unproven WR in the first round, but so many people are saying this I have bought in.
26. Baltimore Ravens - Darrius Heyward - Bey: WR - Maryland; While they are purported to have an interest in Pettigrew, I can't see the Ravens going in that direction with L.J. Smith, Heap, and Wilcox already on the roster. Derrick Mason is not getting any younger, and Heyward-Bey could add a deep threat while learning under his tutiledge.
27. Indianapolis Colts - James Laurinaitis, LB - Ohio State; The Colts could use a DT, but Bill Polian doesn't draft for need. He also loves Big Ten players. Laurinaitis fits in as the best available "football player" at this point in the draft.
28. Buffalo Bills - (from Carolina Panthers via the Philapelphia Eagles) - Brandon Pettigrew, TE - OK St. The Bills still need a pass rusher to compliment Aaron Schobel, but can probably wait until their first pick in the second round to target someone like Michael Johnson, Larry English, Lawrence Sidbury, Connor Barwin, or Paul Kruger.
29. New York Giants - Hackeem Nicks, WR - North Carolina; With Plaxico Burress' officially having been cut, the Giants desperately need to develop a big time receiver in order to get back to being a Super Bowl caliber team. Nix appears to have the size and hands to eventually replace Plax, assuming the G-men don't land someone like Anquan Boldin Chad Johnson via a trade before the draft. Nicks reminds me of Dwayne Bowe of Kansas City.
30. Tennessee Titans - Alphonso Smith, CB - Wake Forrest - I think it comes down Alphonso Smith or WR Kenny Britt. The Titans have already lost Chris Carr and Eric King in their secondary, so some depth at cornerback makes the most sense. While Vontae Davis might still be on the board, I get the impression that the Titans have him ranked behind Smith. Don't rule out a trade here for WR's Anquan Boldin or Chad Johnson. Defensive linemen Michael Johnson, Larry English, Lawrence Sidbury, Connor Barwin, Paul Kruger and Ron Brace may be considerations later in round two.
31. Arizona Cardinals - Donald Brown, RB - U Conn: Arizona's potent offense still has a big hole at RB. With Hightower already a proven goal line runner, an all purpose back like Brown could be the perfect compliment if Chris "Beanie" Wells is off the board.
32. Pittsburgh Steelers - Max Unger, C-G - Oregon; The Steelers could upgrade their line depth with Unger, or they could solidify their defensive backfield with someone like Vontae Davis, Darrius Butler or D.J. Moore in order to replace Bryant McFadden, although I hear that the Steelers are happy with William Gay as his replacement. With Pittsburgh freeing up enough cap space to sign Keiwan Ratliff at cornerback just before the draft, they use the last pick in the first round to sure up their offensive line. Defensive tackle is also a strong consideration if someone like "Ziggy" Hood were to slide.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Heading in to version 2.0 of my mock draft, the biggest news has to be the Denver Broncos trading franchise quarterback Jay Cutler to the Chicago Bears. For the last week, sports talk radio and the major networks covering the NFL have debated who was at fault for Cutler's departure from Denver. Was Cutler a whiney malcontent who couldn't deal with a regime change? Or did the Broncos brass decieve Cutler in trying to acquire a replacement for him in Matt Cassel?
Regardless of who's side you take, I recently started thinking about something in this deal that simply did not make sense. Namely, if the Denver Broncos were so convinced that they needed Cassel to run Josh McDaniels' new offensive system (which is evidenced by the fact that the risked alienating a young and salary cap friendly franchise quarterback), how is it that they let their division rival Kansas City Chiefs trump them in their trade offer to obtain him from the New England Patriots? I initially wondered who was to blame in the Denver organization for this gaff? Was it Josh McDaniels' fault for not telling the organization that he really wanted and needed Cassel to run his offense instead of Cutler before he was hired? Was it Brian Xander's fault for being too stingy to offer more than a second round draft pick in order to obtain their targeted guy in Matt Cassel from New England? Or was it owner Pat Bowlen's fault for firing Mike Shanahan and allowing this whole mess to happen in the first place?
As much as I wanted to assume that Denver really wanted Matt Cassel over Jay Cutler as their quarterback, things simply did not add up. This caused my conspiracy theory chip to kick in. So I started to wonder if the Denver Broncos were ever truly interested in Matt Cassel to begin with, or did they simply want to create an excuse to unload Cutler for draft picks (in order to improve their defense) without alienating their fan base/season ticket holders?" Think about it for just a second. If the Broncos were really seriously interested in obtaining Matt Cassel to the extent that they would engage in secret trade discussions behind Cutler's back, don't you think that the organization would have been willing to part with more than a second rounder to obtain him from New England? If Denver was truly convinced that Matt Cassel was the guy that they needed to run Josh McDaniels' new offense, then shouldn't it have been a no-brainer that they would've offered more than the second round pick (#35 overall) that Kansas City gave up in order to acquire Cassel AND pass rusher Mike Vrabel? If you're Denver and you really wanted Cassel, you would've offered your second and third round picks this year, right? And if that wasn't enough, you would've offered your second round picks from for this AND next year's draft, right? I could keep going on and on here, but you get the picture. If the Broncos were really convinced that Matt Cassel was the guy they needed, they would have done whatever it took to acquire him, right? For the interest that the Broncos were purported to have in Matt Cassel, Kansas City got him WAY, WAY too cheap. That leads me to believe that Denver feigned their interest in Cassel and created a bidding war for Cutler in order to obtain the draft picks that they really wanted in order to bolster their defense.
Now the rumor is that Denver wants to use one of their first round picks to select quarterback Mark Sanchez out of USC. My response is NO....FREAKIN'....WAY! No way do they use a first round pick on an unproven quarterback when this whole mess began because they had purported interest in an established QB for whom they wouldn't give up more than their second rounder for. Denver is taking nothing but defense in the first round, and that is all they ever really wanted to do to begin with. All you have to do is read between the lines. The Denver Broncos front office may think that they are being smart, but I'm not stupid....Now, on to the mock draft.
1. Detroit Lions - Jason Smith - T, Baylor; The Lions want to trade down. They are trying to create a market for Matt Stafford that just doesn't exist. It looks like they will end up having to take premium tackle Jason Smith and move Jeff Backus to guard, which he may or may not be able to play. Backus should be aware that the Lions have signed a number of free agent tackles and guards this off-season, which could make him expendible if the Lions are willing to take the cap hit in releasing him.
2. St. Louis Rams - Eugene Monreoe - T, Virginia; With Orlando Pace having been released and the Lions taking a tackle at #1 in Jason Smith, the Rams go with the next best option in Eugene Monroe, who might be more pro-adept at this point in his career.
3. Kansas City Chiefs - Brian Orakpo - DE, Texas; After trading DE Jared Allen to Minnesota last season, the Chiefs former Defensive Coordinator talked about how much Allen was missed. Accordingly, the Chiefs go with the draft's best available defensive end after a sensational combine and pro-day workout.
4. Seattle Seahawks - Matt Stafford - QB, Georgia.; I'm not convinced that Seattle isn't putting up a smokescreen in purporting to have interest in a QB. I'm not convinced that they really don't want Michael Curry. I think Seattle will try to trade this pick to a team that really does want to move up in order to select Stafford. At a lower slot the Seahawks could target Mark Sanchez, who is better suited to run the west coast offense.
5. Cleveland Browns - Michael Curry - LB, Wake Forrest; The Browns would like for Curry to be the focal point of their 3-4 defense under new head coach Eric Mangini.
6. Cincinnati Bengals - Andre Smith- OT, Alabama; The Tank Johnson signing lets the Bengals concentrate on their offensive line problems. While Smith's meltdown at the Combine causes him to slide from the first to the third tackle selected in the draft, the Bengals can't pass up a windfall at their biggest need.
7. Oakland Raiders - B.J. Raji, DT - Boston College; Al Davis loves speed. Al Davis is tight lipped about who he is going to select. Surprisingly, Al Davis ignores speed and the WR position and solidfies his trenches by selecting bad boy B.J. Raji.
8. Jacksonville Jaguars - Michael Crabtree, WR - Texas Tech; Sadly, since my last post former first rounder Reggie Williams has joined R.J. Soward and Matt Jones in the land of former Jaguar first round receivers who have been cut AND busted for drugs. The Jags try to hit with a WR once again and go with the best talent on the board in Michael Crabtree.
9. Green Bay Packers - Everett Brown, DE - Fla. St.; Brown is a highly rated pass rusher who probably fits best in a 3-4 defensive scheme, which conveniently the Packers are switching to this season.
10. San Francisco 49'ers - Jeremy Maclin, WR - Missouri; The 49'ers are badly in need of a WR. They could trade down with the Jets or Tampa Bay, who would be interested in selecting Mark Sanchez.
11. Buffalo Bills - Robert Ayers, DE - Tennessee; Buffalo does the logical thing and goes with the rising pass rush stud in Robert Ayers over Brandon Pettigrew at TE.
12. Denver Broncos - Rey Malaualuga, MLB - USC; I'm not buying into the Mark Sanchez rumors here. It's a smokescreen to trade down and get more picks. In any event, Sanchez will be gone by the 12 spot. Denver takes Malaualuga at #12 in order to prevent division rival San Diego from taking him, knowing that there is a better chance that Tyson Jackson will still be available at their second first round pick at #18 pick than there is for Malaualuga.
13. Washington "Pigskins" - Aaron Maybin, DE - Penn State; After releasing Jason Taylor, the "Pigskins" still need a pass rush specialist.
14. New Orleans Saints - Brian Cushing, OLB - USC; While the Saints could go CB/S with Malcolm Jenkins, their biggest need is at OLB, and Cushing appears to be their guy.
15. Houston Texans -Malcolm Jenkins, CB - Ohio State; It looked like the Texans would go linebacker until they signed Cato June and Buster Davis this week. They could still use a corner in addition to a safety, and Jenkins could fill either need.
16. San Diego Chargers - Michael Oher, T - Ole Miss; They would love to have Malaualaga fall here, but I think he's gone. Oher is a perfect pick to provide depth on the line while he gains some needed seasoning before he eventually becomes a starter.
17. New York Jets - Mark Sanchez, QB - USC; I still think the Jets trade into the top ten to pick Sanchez. The team is too good and too playoff ready to rely upon Kellen Clemens as their sole option at quarterback.
18. Denver Broncos (from Chicago Bears) - Tyson Jackson, DE - LSU; The Broncos get the DE end they originally targeted at #12 before acquiring a second first round pick from the Bears, and at a much better contract.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Josh Freeman, QB - Kansas State; With Jeff Garcia moving on to Oakland, and with Tampa cutting ties with former quarterback of the future Chris Simms last season, the Bucs reunite their offensive coordinator with his former college QB. No way do they enter the season with Luke McCown as their starting QB unless he is grooming someone else. They have a long term developmental QB in Josh Johnson, but I think they will go with someone more polished who can possibly be ready to take the job over by mid-season.
20. Detroit Lions (from Dallas Cowboys) - James Laurinaitis, MLB - Ohio State; The Lions grab the last of the top three middle linebackers in the draft at #20 spot with little or no drop off in talent, but at a significantly cheaper contract than they would have been stuck with had they taken Aaron Curry with the #1 pick.
21. Philadelphia Eagles - Eben Britton, T - Arizona; The Eagles have two first round picks. Their biggest needs are at T and RB. A stud RB will still be available at #28, and probably even in the second round. Accordingly, they go with the best available tackle left in the draft.
22. Minnesota Vikings - Hackeem Nicks, WR - North Carolina; Minnesota has a solid defense, a great offensive line, and the best running back in the league. With Sage Rosenfel now in the mix, he needs another target to throw to.
23. New England Patriots - Clay Mathews, OLB - USC; New England filled their secondary holes with Lee Bodden & Shawn Springs. The Pats always need LB's in their 3-4 defense, and especially this year since they are aging at that position. Clay Mathews should be able to step in and contribute right away, assuming that the reports of a positive steroid test at the Combine are unfounded as was recently reported by that event's drug testing agency.
24. Atlanta Falcons - Vontae Davis, DB - Illinois; While the ATL would love to add a pass catching TE, one can be had in the second round. With a drop in secondary talent somewhere between Vontae Davis and D.J. Moore, Davis could be the man, again assuming reports of a positive drug test at the Combine are untrue.
25. Miami Dolphins - Darius Butler, CB - UConn; Miami could use a WR, but will be better served drafting the safest CB in this year's draft.
26. Baltimore Ravens - Brandon Pettigrew, TE - OK St; With a run taking the top linebackers off the board by the time the Ravens pick, they elect to go with with a complete tight end who can block and catch. Another need is at WR.
27. Indianapolis Colts -Peria Jerry, DT - Ole Miss; Jerry would be a nice start to bolstering a defense that really struggled against the run last season.
28. Philadelphia Eagles (from Carolina Panthers) - Chris "Beanie" Wells, RB - Ohio State; Beanie gives the Eagles a between the tackles and goal line back to compliment Brian Westbrook.
29. New York Giants - Kenny Britt, WR - Rutgers; With Plaxico Burress' officially having been cut, the Giants desperately need to develop a big time receiver in order to get back to being a Super Bowl caliber team. Britt appears to have the size and hands to eventually replace Plax, assuming the G-men don't land someone like Chad Johnson via a trade before the draft.
30. Tennessee Titans - Alphonso Smith, CB - Wake Forrest - Is it too early for Tennessee to draft the next best DT, which is obviously a need in light of the loss of Albert Haynesworth? Someone like Ziggy Hood could definitely be an option. Larry English, Paul Kruger and Michael Johnson are also considerations at DE. However, Smith might be too good to pass up in light of the Titans losing Chris Carr and Eric King at CB in free agency.
31. Arizona Cardinals - Larry English, DE - Northern Illinois: Arizona needs a RB, but should be able to get someone in the second round with "Shady" McCoy, Knowshon Moreno, Shonne Green, Donald Brown, and Andre Brown all still on the board. Pass rush is now their biggest need with the defection of Antonio Smith to the Texans. Larry English is from a small school, but was a big time producer.
32. Pittsburgh Steelers - Max Unger, C-G - Oregon; The Steelers could upgrade their line depth with Unger, or they could solidify their defensive backfield with someone like D.J. Moore or Alphonso Smith in order to replace Bryant McFadden, although I hear that the Steelers are happy with William Gay as his replacement. Still, they could use some depth at the CB position, so they will likely go with the best availble player at either OL and DB with the last pick in the first round.