Rounds 1 & 2
Ediitor's Note: Antoniio will update this article two more times
(4/7, 4/21) before the NFL draft takes place.
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
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
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,
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”
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,
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
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
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,
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.