My NFL Mock Draft

After a lackluster NCAA basketball bracket, though my son and I did have the Spartans in the Championship game, I am now focusing my attention on the NFL draft. For the past three years, I pay the older son a set amount of money for each first round selection that I miss. We limit the picks to the first ten, plus two additional--the Broncos pick (his team) and the Buccaneers pick (my team).

I enjoy reading about all of the possibilities each team has, but I definitely will not quit my day job to become a pro football analyst—as the kid knows it is always a good day for him to make a few dollars off of Dad’s mistakes.

So, here are my picks for this weekend’s draft. I reserve the right to modify these picks up to draft day, and of course one surprise trade could make my predicted selections completely worthless, but it is a fun endeavor anyway.

1) Detroit Lions: QB Matt Stafford, University of Georgia
This team recently traded last year’s starting QB John Kitna; an aging veteran who missed most of last year to injuries. Detroit’s only legit QB on the roster is Daunte Culpepper--another aging veteran who was unwanted by anyone else last year until mid-season when the Lions signed him. He started the last part of the season for them and their historic winless season.

Culpepper basically came from his home couch to the Lions’ facility, and as soon as he walked in the door, was handed the starting job as coaches deemed him better than the QBs that been with the team all year.

During the off-season, they did not sign any of the potential starting QB free agents. What else can the Lions do except pick a QB here?

2) St. Louis Rams: OT Jason Smith, Baylor
During the off-season, the Rams cut seven-time Pro-Bowl and 12-year veteran LT Orlando Pace—who was recovering from an assortment of injuries. Pace was the number one overall pick in 1997, and had been a solid performer during his time with the team. Obviously, this move creates a glaring need to protect the QB and the Rams will choose between Smith and another great OT prospect in Eugene Monroe. Reports say Smith is the better run-blocker, so I give him the edge.

Recently, rumors have the Rams interested in USC’s QB Sanchez, but I think the Rams are bluffing and trying to entice a team to trade-up.

3) Kansas City Chiefs: ILB Aaron Curry, Wake Forest
Curry had a fantastic NFL combine and the Chiefs, with a new administration, are looking for an impact player to help an inconsistent defense. After spending big money on offense through the Matt Cassel trade, this seems to be a consensus pick for KC.

4)Seattle Seahawks: OT Eugene Monroe, Virginia
A lot of insiders have the Seahawks picking elite WR Michael Crabtree or QB Mark Sanchez here, but with the acquisition of former Bengal TJ Houshmandzadeh and Deion Branch a couple of years ago, I think they will draft a WR later. With Monroe or Smith being available at #4, the Seahawks will have difficulty in resisting the non-glamorous big guy—a pick that could cement an offensive line position for a decade.

5) Cleveland Browns: DE/OLB Brian Orakpo, Texas
With a similar dilemma in 2008, Browns current head coach yet then the Jets head coach, went for a speed-based defense player. I would expect the Browns to pick defense here again unless the rumored trade of disgruntled WR Braylon Edwards comes to fruition. If the Browns do trade Edwards, which I am surprised that they are entertaining considering they already traded one gifted pass-catcher in TE Kellen Winslow, WR Michael Crabtree would become the favorite for a pick in this slot.

6) Cincinnati Bengals: WR Michel Crabtree, Texas Tech
The Bengals would prefer to select an offensive lineman here, but Smith and Monroe should be off the board. With Chad Ocho Cinco (yes, that is legally his name now—previously Chad Johnson) not happy about being in Cincinnati, and TJ traded to Seattle, the receiving core is a glaring need. Crabtree had a great collegiate career and should be a solid contributor in the NFL.

7) Oakland Raiders: DE Michael Johnson, Georgia Tech
The experts have a lot of fun trying to get inside the head of longtime Raider owner Al Davis. One thing for certain with Mr. Davis is that he loves players who have explosive speed. With that said, Johnson reportedly ran 40 yards in 4.49 seconds—unbelievable considering he is 6 foot 7 and weighs 266 lbs. Evidently, Johnson draft stock has been hurt due to reports that he is not the most motivated player in the world, but Mr. Davis has never been afraid to employ persons with real or alleged attitude problems.

8) Jacksonville Jaguars: QB Mark Sanchez, USC
Several of the draft experts believe that the Broncos or Redskins will trade-up to acquire Sanchez at this spot. If not, the Jags need to add some QB competition to their roster, and Sanchez having good skills and coming from a pro-style offense at USC, would be very tempting here.

9) Green Bay Packers: NT B.J. Raji, Boston College
To build an elite 3-4 defense, a team needs to find an outstanding middle-clogger who helps stop the run and requires consistent double teams. Currently, the Packers do not have an experienced nose tackle and Raji is a fantastic big athlete. I would not be surprised to see Raji taken in the Top 5, but if my predictions are accurate, the Packers will not be able to pass on this big guy.

10) San Francisco 49ers: Aaron Maybin, DE, Penn State
The 49ers have many needs in the OL, DL and LB, but I think Maybin’s athleticism and potential as a speed pass rusher will appeal to them. His explosiveness off the ball against quality OT opponents in the Big 10 Conference shows that he can dominate against good blockers. I could see the team selecting a DE here like Tyson Jackson from LSU, but Jackson’s poor bench press performance at the NFL combine is a turn-off for teams looking for a strong lineman.

12) Denver Broncos: Everette Brown, DE/OLB, Florida State
With having multiple first round selections after the trade of starting QB Jay Cutler, predicting what the Broncos will do is more of a crap-shoot. They obviously would like a franchise QB (but I don’t see one worthy of the #12 pick), but the need for DL and LB are urgent. Brown can play DL or LB and I think the Broncos will pick him at #12 and not risk waiting to see if he is still available when they pick again at the #18 spot.

19) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Peria Jerry, DT Ole Miss
As I have blogged previously about my favorite team, they have a new and inexperienced head coach and general manager in place. This is not necessarily a bad thing as their talent may just be undiscovered, but I have not liked the personnel moves made by management thus far. Some experts have the Bucs selecting strong-armed QB prospect Josh Freeman from Kansas St. here, but with Tampa just signing veteran backup Byron Leftwich to add to three other QBs that management reportedly like, I don’t see them investing in a long-term project like Freeman.

During the off-season, Tampa released or did not resign several productive LB and DL players. The moves were reportedly to allow for bigger players to be acquired as the team shifts away from a defensive strategy that featured undersized but fast athletes. If this is the case, then a good DL like Jerry would be essential for the “please don’t call this rebuilding” going on in South Florida.

At 299 lbs., he is considered undersized (wow huh) for a 3-4 alignment, but I am sure the NFL trainers will quickly put him on a program that will add girth and muscle—so that he will be shaped in the preferred form by opening day.

Whomever the Bucs pick, I think it will be a 4 or 5 win season next year—a difficult schedule and too many question marks at key positions will hinder performance. Hopefully, management will not officially declare 2009 as a rebuilding year and draft the QB Freeman with their #1 or you may hear me crying like a baby.