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NFL Mock Draft
Rounds 1 & 2

Ediitor's Note: Antoniio will update this article two more times (4/7, 4/21) before the NFL draft takes place.

Round 1

1. Dolphins – Chris Long, DE, Virginia

He’s the son of Hall-of Famer Howie Long and he’ll be the safest bet for the Dolphins when Roger Goodell steps to the podium to announce the first pick of the 2008 NFL Draft. Pedigree aside, Long has dominated at every level and possesses all the skills necessary to make the jump to the NFL. He excelled at the NFL Combine and while he’s not the fastest defensive end in his draft class, the ones who are faster aren’t 6-3, 272-pound behemoths. What truly sets him apart from the other players (besides a HOF daddy) are his excellent football instincts and rabid determination in shedding blockers and making the play. He’s not perfect, but he’s the best option for a team that desperately needs help for perennial Pro-Bowler Jason Taylor and the rest of the lackluster defense. And I don’t believe all this nonsense I’m hearing about Bill Parcells working on offense first. What did he do in Dallas?

2. Rams – Jake Long, OT, Michigan

The Rams offensive line isn’t what it used to be – largely because of a bevy of injuries in ‘07 that effectively destroyed their season. Most of the other pieces are there, so the 6-7, 315-pound Jake Long seems to make the most sense here – even with the addition of former Titan offensive lineman Jacob Bell. With prototypical size for an NFL tackle, he’s every NFL quarterback’s draft-day wet dream – and he will make an immediate impact in all facets of the St. Louis offense. If Orlando Pace is healthy enough to start the season, Jake will start at right tackle – eventually moving over the left side when Pace moves on. If they do pick him up, you’ll probably see the fantasy values of Steven Jackson and Marc Bulger increase a few notches.

3. Falcons – Glenn Dorsey, DT, LSU

While it’s entirely possible the Falcons trade this pick and go for a QB, there are just too many different possibilities with that scenario to bank on one in particular – and waste the opportunity to grab Dorsey, a great player in his own right. He won every award college had to offer last season, including the Nagurski Award, Lombardi Award, Outland Trophy and Lott Award. The only thing that makes him a question mark is the tibia stress fracture he acknowledged, an injury that he said dates back to the summer of ’06 – but it didn’t impede him last year so there’s no reason to believe it will be much of an issue in the NFL.

4. Raiders – Darren McFadden, RB, Arkansas

There’s just no way Al Davis will pass up on an athlete like McFadden with the fourth overall pick. Last year, he took JaMarcus Russell; this offseason, the Raiders signed Javon Walker, so they might not look for a WR early. Now, they’ll have the opportunity to take McFadden – who’s an Adrian-Peterson-like talent that can change the dynamic of the languishing offense. What other player at this position in the draft will immediately do that?

5. Chiefs – Ryan Clady, OT, Boise State

The word is that the Chiefs brass is happy with the progress Brodie Croyle has made, so they won’t go for Matt Ryan here. Honestly, I think taking a bookend tackle like Clady is the right move – since the offensive line has still not recovered from the loss of Willie Roaf. Clady’s a future Pro-Bowler who can start right away and help this struggling unit. Yes, they could go with Jeff Otah – but he might not be as far along as Clady, who’s been steadily climbing in the consensus of mock drafts.

6. Jets – Vernon Gholston, DE, Ohio State

If McFadden doesn’t go to the Raiders, he’ll slip to the Jets, but I’m banking that Al Davis likes the prospect of improving the offense before the defense – which isn’t terrible to begin with. The Jets, on the other hand, need Gholston, a man-child who shredded his competition at the combine, posting a 4.67 in the 40 and a ridiculous 37 reps – 6 more than Derrick Harvey, his closet competitor. Plus, he boasts a 35.5 inch vertical, 10.5 foot broad jump and an exceptional character.

7. Patriots (from 49ers) – Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, DB, Tennessee State

The defense took major hits this offseason, losing both Asante Samuel and Randall Gay to free agency. While they have capable backups, you can never have too many good corners, and Rodgers-Cromartie – Antonio’s cousin – blew up at the combine and impressed everybody with his speed and athleticism. He’s 6’1” and has room to develop into a solid NFL safety – another position the Pats need to bolster. While there are a slew of great DBs in this year’s draft, this guy might be the best.

8. Ravens – Matt Ryan, QB, Boston College

Sure – they just drafted Troy Smith, but they showed absolutely no confidence in him at the end of last season (which bothered me), when he probably could’ve started the last few weeks since the season was already lost. And yes, the Ravens need to bolster their line and develop an offense that can actually move the football, but Ryan might be a fresh start. After years of dominating the draft, the Ravens will look to grab the player with the most potential at the #8 spot, unless they snag a stud lineman or a top DB. Ryan – who might still get snagged by the Falcons before the Ravens even get to him – could be an interesting selection.

9. Bengals – Sedrick Ellis, DT, USC

This selection is from the no-brainer department of draft picks. Ellis is big, tough and just the kind of combination run/pass stuffer the Bengals need to anchor their weak defensive line. He’s got great footwork and balance and can immediately jump in as a starter for Cincy – and could possibly be a Pro-Bowler within the next couple years.

10. Saints – Mike Jenkins, CB, South Florida

Unless one of the top DTs falls to the 10th pick, the Saints will probably take a cornerback here, since there’s so many good ones to choose from. It could be McKelvin, who’s also a kick return specialist and possible two-way threat, but it’s most likely to be Jenkins, who’s basically a slightly bulkier version of McKelvin.

11. Bills – Leodis McKelvin, CB, Troy

See above. McKelvin has drawn comparisons to R.W. McQuarters, and while the Bills have glaring needs at DT and LB, I think taking a player with McKelvin’s upside makes the most sense. Lots of draft experts have the Bills selecting Oklahoma WR Malcolm Kelly here, but I think the top CBs are just too strong to ignore this early in the game, and Kelly’s a reach at #11. There will also be a glut of receivers available in round 2, if the Bills choose to even go that direction.

12. Broncos – Keith Rivers, LB, USC

The Broncos linebacking corps just hasn’t been the same since Al Wilson’s 2006 neck injury (which got him released last year) and Rivers is considered by many to be the best in the draft. While they have other needs (OL, WR) I think it’s imperative the Broncos select a linebacker here – all the good ones will be gone by their next selection at Round 2, with the exception of possibly Maryland LB Erin Henderson or Xavier Adibi from Virginia Tech – who could go somewhere in Round 2 or early Round 3. If that’s their thinking, they’ll take Vanderbilt tackle Chris Williams and opt for Henderson or Adibi in Round 2 if they’re still available.

13. Panthers – Chris Williams, OT, Vanderbilt

This team needs a big tackle that can protect Jake Delhomme’s blind side, and Williams is just the guy to do it. He’s a rangy 6-6, 315 with solid pass-blocking skills, although he’s far from the strongest offensive tackle in the draft. The other standout tackle who could be selected here is Jeff Otah (see below, pick 15). The Panthers could also opt for a QB here (Delhomme was not good at all last season) but it’s far too early to go for Brian Brohm, Joe Flacco, Chad Henne. If Ryan slips this late, it’s another story, but at this point, I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of the Carolina War Room trading down with this pick for future benefits.

14. Bears – Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Illinois

Mendenhall is a hometown product from nearby Skokie that will go a long way toward forgetting Cedric Benson, who’s just not developing into the player the Bears had envisioned when they selected him with the fourth pick overall in 2005. The Illini back is a physical inside runner with quickness and superb balance. The Bears need a solid running back, and it’s probably going to be him, Felix Jones or Jonathan Stewart.

15. Lions – Jeff Otah, OT, Pittsburgh

Otah, with his huge frame (6-6, 332), great instincts and raw talent, could prove to be the best offensive lineman in the draft, although he’ll have to tighten up his physique and improve his speed and strength if he wants to dominate at the next level. I think the Lions need a solid offensive lineman before they start worrying about the skill positions, but they could also opt for a RB like Stewart or Jones here and take Nebraska tackle Carl Nicks if he slips that far in Round 2 – which he might with his legal troubles.

16. Cardinals – Jonathan Stewart, RB, Oregon

Turf toe injuries this early in a career are always a concern, but you just can’t ignore what Stewart did at Oregon – even while playing in pain. He’s a complete back with few weaknesses, and has even drawn comparisons to LaDainian Tomlinson. It’s hard to imagine the Cardinals – who need a back with a little more punch than the aging Edgerrin James – letting Stewart fall past their hands.

17. Vikings – Derrick Harvey, DE, Florida

The Vikings need a WR, but they also need to improve their pas rush, and there’s a bunch of athletic pass-rushing specialists the Vikings could go for here and still pick up a quality WR in Round 2. With the exception of Gholston, no defensive end turned more heads at the combine than Harvey, whose massive 6-4, 271-pound frame and superior athleticism remind many of Jevon Kearse. He has the required speed to be a dominant edge rusher, and could even switch to OLB with the right personnel and scheme. The Vikes have to consider Philip Merling and Calais Campbell, but neither has Harvey’s speed and we haven’t gotten a really good look at them yet.

18. Texans – Aqib Talib, CB, Kansas

The Texans biggest needs are at RB and CB. If the big-name running backs are gone, you can bet the Texans will be selecting a top corner – from which they’ll still have several to choose. Depending on your view of a corner’s best assets, Talib could be a boon or a bust. He’s not that tough, has solid – but not exceptional – speed, is very athletic with a 38-inch vertical leap, and can broad jump almost 11 feet. He’s also a bit of a gambler, but he hasn’t reached his full potential – so I think he’ll be a first-rounder.

19. Eagles – Kenny Phillips, S, Miami

The Eagles could also go a variety of ways with this pick, filling needs at WR, DE and even LB. But Phillips – easily the best safety prospect in the draft, is a banger with solid coverage skills in the mold of Sean Taylor and Brian Dawkins. If they wait until Round 2, he’ll be gone, so they’ll have to grab him now and take a DE or WR they can live with in Round 2.

20. Buccaneers – DeSean Jackson, WR, California

Jackson, who was considered the third-best all-around athlete in the Major League Baseball draft prospect pool in 2005 by Baseball America, is a rare specimen with impressive speed, agility and intensity. While the Bucs could go for a Malcolm Kelly here, take a QB, opt for a top linebacker, or take of the many solid defensive backs that remain, I think they’ll draft Jackson based simply on his intangibles – a la Ted “Family Matters” Ginn.

21. Redskins – Malcolm Kelly, WR, Oklahoma

The Skins desperately need some consistency with respect to their WRs, and if Kelly slips this far, they’ll snatch him up in a heartbeat. The Oklahoma product is a complete receiver with size, speed and hands to make the tough catch. So why could he fall this far? He’s already had knee surgery to repair cartilage damage, and he’s had some other minor injuries. Also – the Sooners aren’t quite known for their stellar wide receivers. Can you tell me the last WR out of Oklahoma to live up to his hype and flourish in the NFL? Mark Clayton? I don’t think so, football fans.

22. Cowboys (from Browns) – Felix Jones, RB, Arkansas

As a Cowboy fan, it would be nice to think they might draft up for McFadden – but with so many highly touted backs available in the first two rounds, why bother? Jerry Jones loves Arkansas running backs, and if he can’t have their best, how about the other half of the devastating backfield duo? Fayetteville Felix is a relatively unknown commodity – but one who could be as productive at the next level as McFadden, especially with his propensity for big plays and electrifying kick returns. This Jones could definitely be the Yin to Marion Jones’ Yang in the Dallas backfield – and provide a boost they just didn’t get with Julius Teaser.

23. Steelers – Branden Albert, G, Virginia

Albert’s the biggest (6-6, 309), quickest guard in the draft, so it makes sense the Steelers select him to fill the shoes of Alan Faneca, who signed on March 1 with the Jets. I’m sure Albert, who’s from Rochester, NY, will enjoy being close to home and playing for his favorite team. And if the Steelers don’t opt for a CB or WR here, he’s their man.

24. Titans – Limas Sweed, WR, Texas

Limas Sweed might be the best value of any first-round player. With hiss prototypical size (6-4, 216), speed and athleticism (and ultra-cool sounding name), the guy’s poised for greatness at the next level, something the Titans desperately need at least one of their bevy of young receivers to achieve.

25. Seahawks – Dustin Keller, TE, Purdue

Just about every mock draft I’ve encountered lists Dustin Keller as the Seahawks first-round selection, and after tossing about 10 different names of DLs, OTs and WRs in this slot and adjusting the second round ramifications accordingly, it just didn’t make any sense. Keller could be the blocker/possession receiver that Matt Hasselbeck – and the rest of this unit – needs to open up the offense and allow their talented skill starters to flourish once again.

26. Jaguars – Philip Merling, DE, Clemson

I honestly can’t see Merling going much later than pick 26, although there’s always room for surprises come draft day. The other option would be the U’s Calais Campbell. Merling’s value diminished following an extremely limited showing (just 17 reps on the bench press) at the combine that failed to give scouts a true idea of his speed and strength. His uncle and former position coach at Clemson, Chris Rumph, informed the media that Merling had recent surgery to repair a sports hernia. While Merling needs to work on his technique before he’ll succeed as a pro, he’s still a hot commodity than should escape a first-round selection.

27. Chargers – Gosder Cherilus, OT, Boston College

Cherilus isn’t among the elite tackles in this year’s draft, mainly because he’s not a great pass-blocker and was penalized quite a bit at BC when he switched to left tackle for his senior season. But he’ll make a good fit as the right tackle for the Chargers, who already have Marcus McNeill – a Pro Bowl alternate in 2007 as a rookie. There are some areas where the Chargers need some improvement, but Cherilus is the selection that makes the most sense.

28. Cowboys – Devin Thomas, WR, Michigan State

With Terrell Owens’ future always awash in confusion, Terry Glenn all but finished and inconsistent gains from the Cowboys’ other receiving commodities, Dallas needs a guy with a dependable future, and Thomas could be the one. He’s not great yet, but he’ll offer a nice complement to T.O. in ’08 and could be their #2 WR for years to come.

29. 49ers (from Colts) – James Hardy, WR, Indiana

Hardy is tall (almost 6-6), fast, and has all the tools to be a quality receiver in the NFL. He might be what the 49ers have been missing on offense – a big target for Alex Smith. There are still a few other WR options available here, including Michigan wideout Mario Manningham, Florida’s Andre Caldwell and LSU receiver Early Doucet, but I think Hardy fits the team’s needs the best.

30. Packers – Antoine Cason, CB, Arizona

Like I said before, you can never have too many good corners. He’s got great football instincts and can make all the plays to be a shut-down corner at the next level. With the Packers, he’ll have an opportunity to develop at a normal pace and eventually be a Pro-Bowl type player.

31. Giants – Jerod Mayo, LB, Tennessee

The Giants could really use a top-notch offensive lineman, but they’ll be lucky to get an versatile linebacker like Mayo with this pick. There are flashier linebackers with bigger upsides out there, including Quentin Groves, but Groves is a pass-rushing tweener – and the Giants are stacked with edge rushers. Mayo was effective as an OLB – and on the inside last season at Tennessee, so he could eventually be moved back to the outside in the Giants 4-3. Wherever this fast, instinctive tackler ends up, he’ll have an impact. Other options for this pick include Penn State LB Dan Connor and Maryland’s Erin Henderson. Tavares Gooden, an ILB out of Miami, has been mentioned a lot lately, but he’s really a serious reach in Round 1 and only a marginal Round 2 selection.

Next: Round 2