Rounds 1 & 2
Ediitor's Note: Antoniio will update this article on 4/21 before
the NFL draft takes place.
April 7th Update: There’s
been a lot of speculation regarding opening round trades involving
some combination of the Cowboys, the Raiders, the Jets, the Patriots,
the Dolphins, the Saints and a handful of other teams whose needs
may not correspond directly with their draft position. I’m
going to stay away from trade projections aside from what’s
already been done, but I will discuss some possible scenarios
within the context of the individual picks.
1. Dolphins – Chris Long, DE, Virginia
Long still seems the safest bet for the Dolphins as the first
pick of the 2008 NFL Draft. During the offseason, Bill Parcells
added a prototypical veteran QB in Josh McCown, and with Jason
Taylor probably out the door after he wraps up his dancing career,
the Dolphins will need a DE/OLB pass rusher with game-changing
ability. 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. He’s got excellent football instincts,
sheds blockers with ease and can make all the plays. While it’s
still very possible the Dolphins will trade down and pick up another
solid DE or DT later in the first round, they’ve already
added DT Jason Ferguson to the unit and I think they’ll
want to lock up somebody of Long’s caliber while they have
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. On his Pro Day workout at LSU, Dorsey
(6-2, 297) ran the 40 in 5.13 and 5.12, had a 25.5-inch vertical
jump, 8-foot-4-inch long jump, 4.80 short shuttle, and 7.52 cone
drill. During position drills, Dorsey apparently looked very good.
Even if the Falcons draft Matt Ryan (which I don’t think
they will) Dorsey will be a top ten pick.
4. Raiders – Darren McFadden, RB, Arkansas
Some mock drafts have the Raiders trading this pick to the Cowboys,
and some even have it going to the Jets. Unless the Raiders can
add a second round pick this year (#36) or next year (undetermined)
from the Jets for dropping two spots, or get a future second and
the Cowboys’ first pick this season, there’s just
no way Al Davis will pass up on snagging an athlete like McFadden
with the fourth overall selection. But it just doesn’t make
sense for the Jets to trade up and grab Ohio State DE Vernon Gholston
– since he’ll probably fall to #6 anyway.
5. Chiefs – Ryan Clady, OT, Boise State
I still don’t think the Chiefs will go for Matt Ryan here,
although taking Glenn Dorsey is distinct possibility if he falls
to #5 and Sedrick Ellis is a beast of a talent. Honestly, I think
taking a bookend tackle like Clady is the right move – for
a lot of teams in the first round – although there are other
lineman available who might fit better into the KC offense. Clady’s
a future Pro-Bowler who can start right away and help this struggling
unit. The Chiefs may go with Jeff Otah, Chris Williams or even
trade down to grab Gosder Cherilus if he slips – but none
of them are probably as far along as Clady, who’s rarely
outside the top ten 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
With so many great DBs in the draft, it’s very possible
that the Pats trade this pick for a few slots down and future
considerations. I think Rodgers-Cromartie is their guy, unless
he’s the Cowboys’s guy (Dallas sent a crew to videotape
his entire Pro Day workout) The defense took major hits this offseason,
losing both Asante Samuel and Randall Gay to free agency. 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, including
Leodis McKelvin and Mike Jenkins – the two guys usually
considered before Rodgers-Cromartie in most mock drafts –
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,
unless, of course, Ellis gets taken sooner. Then, I think, the
Bengals would be wise to add either a top RB or a studly offensive
lineman. Ellis, however, 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
I still like the Saints taking a DB here, unless one of the top
DTs falls to the 10th pick. There’s just so many good corners
to choose from. The Saints might snag McKelvin, who’s also
a kick return specialist and possible two-way threat, but my feeling
is that it’ll be Jenkins, who’s basically a slightly
bulkier version of McKelvin and might not require as much cash
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
Rivers is considered by many to be the best in the draft, although
Shanahan could take a RB. While the Broncos have other needs (OL,
WR) I think it’s imperative they 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,
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 a tackle in Round 2.
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
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 – Agib 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
There’s lots of talk about the Redskins reaching for Quentin
Groves here, and while his talent is clearly first-round quality,
he should be available in Round 2. Maybe the Skins trade down
and snag Groves before Round 2 kicks off, but it should be first
thing’s first with this offense. The Skins desperately need
some consistency with respect to their WRs, and they could take
Limas Sweed, but if Kelly slips this far, they might grab him.
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
– making some of the other WRs slated for first-round picks
maybe a better choice.
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 RB, 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 his 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, and I’ve taken some heat already for pushing him this
far down. Another option, if Merling and Harvey were already gone,
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
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
They could easily go CB here, but if the top dogs are gone, they
should wait until round 2. Like I’ve said before, Terry
Glenn is moments away from being euthanized, and T.O. isn’t
necessarily of sound mind. 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 Owens in ’08
and could be the #2 WR in Bid D for years to come. If the Cowboys
are willing to gamble, you could see them take James Hardy (WR,
Indiana) with this pick.
29. 49ers (from Colts) – Dan Connor, LB,
Connor has drawn comparisons to fellow Penn State product Paul
Posluszny and would be a nice fit on this improving defense. Connor
might not fall this far, but I think some teams will pass on him
because of obvious needs in other areas and draft value quandaries.
And I think the 49ers won’t like the value of the remaining
lineman at this early point. They could trade up or down for a
stud tackle, but if they stay here, Connor will be the best they
30. Packers – Antoine Cason, CB, Arizona
Like I said before, you can never have too many good corners.
Cason has got great football instincts and can make all the plays
to be a shutdown 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 a 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.