It's coming up quickly. The NFL Draft is only 31 short days away and the Falcons have been meeting…
AFI Mock Draft 2.0
Eklund's take: In a week we could be talking about who the Denver Broncos will be selecting here seeing as their quarterback, Jay Cutler, has demanded a trade and Detroit's need for a top-notch signal-caller and the enticement of the number one overall draft selection could end up being too much for the Broncos to pass up. If they stand pat, I expect the Lions to take Stafford, but they could look at one of the top tackles in this spot as well.
2) St. Louis Rams – OT Jason Smith, Baylor
Eklund's take: Everyone has the Rams selecting Smith, one of the most impressive line prospects from an athletic standpoint that has come out in the draft in recent years. Smith would fill the huge hole the release of Orlando Pace created. Wake Forest LB Aaron Curry is also a consideration here, but with their needs along the offensive line, Smith is the logical choice.
3) Kansas City Chiefs – LB Aaron Curry, Wake Forest
Eklund's take: Heading into the draft process, everyone had the Chiefs pegged for one of the top two quarterbacks, but with the acquisition of Matt Cassel, new GM Scott Pioli and new head coach Todd Haley will look to bring in the top rated player in the draft regardless of position. Curry would play on the opposite side of Derrick Johnson and give the chiefs one of the best young linebacker corps in the league.
4) Seattle Seahawks – OT Eugene Monroe, Virginia
Eklund's take: It's becoming more and more apparent that the Seahawks will look to find the eventual replacement for future Hall-of-Famer Walter Jones who has held down the left tackle position for the last 13 years. Jones is still better than 90% of the tackles in the league, but he's slowing down and Monroe is the perfect heir-apparent to plug into the depth.
5) Cleveland Browns – DE Brian Orakpo, Texas
Eklund's take: After being one of the top performers at he combine, Orakpo has positioned himself nicely to be the top overall DE/OLB available. The Browns only notched 17 sacks last season and Orakpo specializes in getting after the quarterback. Boston College DE B.J. Raji would make a lot of sense here, but Orakpo's potential wins out.
6) Cincinnati Bengals - DT B.J. Raji, Boston College
Eklund's take: The Bengals could go a number of ways, but Raji would help shore up an interior defense that allowed 120 yards per game last season. Another possibility here would be Texas Tech WR Michael Crabtree who would be an outstanding replacement for the departed T.J. Houshmandzadeh, but the receiver position is deep this year whereas the defensive tackle spot takes a huge drop-off after Raji.
7) Oakland Raiders – WR Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech
Eklund's take: If the draft falls this way, the Raiders would set a record for the fastest selection in draft history. Crabtree would be the perfect fit in the Raiders' offense and team with QB Jamarcus Russell and RB Darren McFadden to form one of the best young trio's in the league.
8) Jacksonville Jaguars – WR Jeremy Maclin, Missouri
Eklund's take: While USC QB Mark Sanchez would get a long look here, the Jaguars need to get a solid wideout to team with current QB David Gerrard. Maclin's speed, size and return skills make him a good fit with the Jags and he'd be able to challenge for a starting spot immediately.
9) Green Bay Packers – DE/OLB Aaron Maybin, Penn State
Eklund's take: If Orakpo is available here, there will be a ton of debate in Packers' ‘war room' over who they should take, but Maybin had a great pro day and he's moved up into the top 10 with his pass-rushing abilities. Maybin's size and speed are also good fits in Green Bay's new 3-4 defense being implemented by Dom Capers.
10) San Francisco 49ers – QB Mark Sanchez, USC
Eklund's take: It's safe to say that Alex Smith is a complete bust, so the 49ers need to bring in a young signal-caller who can help lead what is by all rights a talented offense. With Frank Gore in place and a set of young wideouts to throw to, the last piece of the puzzle would be Sanchez who doesn't have a lot of starting experience, but he loves to compete and he's got all the tools necessary to be a solid starter in the league.
11) Buffalo Bills – OT Andre Smith, Alabama
Eklund's take: With Jason Peters' contract dispute, the Bills need to focus on the offensive line and even though he's had a really bad offseason, Smith is still one of the top players from an athletic standpoint in the entire draft. Because of Smith's character questions, the Bills might opt to pass on him, but if he were available here I think it could end up being the steal of the draft.
12) Denver Broncos – DE Tyson Jackson, LSU
Eklund's take: I like Jackson's ability to play either the nose or end depending on the formation and he's a player with natural pass-rushing ability. Denver needs to get bigger up front and with Jackson's size (6-5, 299) is ideal for their new 3-4.
13) Washington Redskins – OT Michael Oher, Mississippi
Eklund's take: The Redskins need to add a top-notch tackle and Oher fits that bill perfectly. While he isn't the athlete that the top three tackle prospects are, he's a technician that can handle both pass-blocking and run-blocking with equal adeptness.
14) New Orleans Saints – RB Knowshon Moreno, Georgia
Eklund's take: It's very possible that the Saints could look to bring in Ohio State DB Michael Jenkins at this position, but with the loss of Deuce McAllister to free agency and the inability of Reggie Bush to stay healthy as an every-down back, Moreno makes a lot of sense here. Also in the discussion will be Ohio State RB Chris Wells who would be the "thunder" to Bush's "lightning".
15) Houston Texans – DE/OLB Everette Brown, Florida State
Eklund's take: Brown is a player who would fit perfectly into the Texans' attacking defensive scheme. Wells is also a player who could be a consideration here, but with Steve Slaton coming off a solid rookie season, I seriously doubt they would use their first rounder on a back.
16) San Diego Chargers – DB Malcolm Jenkins, Ohio State
Eklund's take: The Chargers love big and physical corners and Jenkins is exactly that, but he's most likely headed inside to a free safety position where he could move Eric Weddle to strong safety and be a playmaker in center field.
17) New York Jets – WR/RB Percy Harvin, Florida
Eklund's take: The Jets need more speed on offense and Harvin has plenty of that. He's a player that could fit the mold of how Bush is being used in New Orleans. He can return kicks, take a handoff out of the backfield or catch a pass and take it the distance. If Harvin gets free in space, there are few players who can catch him. Another possibility is Kansas State QB Josh Freeman, but he'd be a reach at this point.
18) Chicago Bears – WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, Maryland
Eklund's take: The Bears need a deep-threat and someone who can take it the distance every time he gets his hands on the ball and Heyward-Bey fits that bill perfectly. Now, can they find someone to throw it to him? That's the big question.
19) Tampa Bay Buccaneers – QB Josh Freeman, Kansas State
Eklund's take: Now, if Tampa Bay trades for Cutler, this pick will obviously go a different direction, but if they stand pat, expect Freeman to get a long look by the new staff. If they don't go with a signal-caller, expect them to look hard at a player like USC LB Rey Maualuga who can take the place of departed future Hall-of-Famer Derrick Brooks.
20) Detroit Lions (from Dallas) – DT Peria Jerry, Mississippi
Eklund's take: The trade of Cory Redding to Seattle will cause the Lions to look at someone who can rush the quarterback on the inside while also stuffing the run and helping repair the worst run defense in the league. Detroit has plenty of holes so they could go a number of ways, but the second-best defensive tackle on the board is where they will probably turn their focus.
21) Philadelphia Eagles – RB Chris Wells, Ohio State
Eklund's take: The Eagles need to find a complement and future replacement for Brian Westbrook and Wells has all the tools to be a dominant force in the NFL. Wells' only drawback has been his inability to stay healthy while taking a bulk of the carries, but he wouldn't have to do that in Philadelphia's system.
22) Minnesota Vikings – WR Hakeem Nicks, North Carolina
Eklund's take: The Vikings are slowly putting together one of the most explosive offenses in the league and Nicks' downfield exploits would fit in nicely with what they are building.
23) New England Patriots – OLB Brian Cushing, USC
Eklund's take: The Patriots love their linebackers to be versatile, able to play either inside or outside and Cushing can do both. Tennessee's Robert Ayers is another player who could play outside linebacker in New England's system, but USC's All-American consistency and productivity wins out in this instance.
24) Atlanta Falcons – TE Brandon Pettigrew, Oklahoma State
Eklund's take: In this instance, the Falcons would be hoping that Cushing falls to them, but if not they end up selecting the best tight end in the draft and add another target for QB Matt Ryan. Other players that Atlanta could look at include Maualuga, USC's Clay Matthews or even Illinois CB Vontae Davis.
25) Miami Dolphins – CB Vontae Davis, Illinois
Eklund's take: The Dolphins have needs at wide receiver and corner and with the number one corner in the draft still on the board, Davis has to be the selection. He would immediately challenge for a starting spot and would be a solid fit at nickel corner as a rookie.
26) Baltimore Ravens – LB Rey Maualuga, USC
Eklund's take: He's still one of the top two or three middle linebackers in the league, but eventually Ray Lewis is going to slow down enough that the Ravens will need to replace him and Maualuga is almost an exact clone of Lewis in the way he leads and tackles. If he's available here, then he's the selection.
27) Indianapolis Colts – DT Ron Brace. Boston College
Eklund's take: This is a tough one because Rutgers WR Kenny Britt has risen up draft boards with his combine workout and the Colts need to replace Marvin Harrison, but when you have someone like Brace at number 27 staring you in the face, you have to snatch him up.
28) Philadelphia Eagles – OT Eben Britton, Arizona
Eklund's take: OT Tra Thomas left via free agency and Britton is a player who has risen up draft boards with his quick feet and tenacious attitude.
29) New York Giants – WR Kenny Britt, Rutgers
Eklund's take: With Plexico Burress' status up in the air, Britt makes a ton of sense here. He has barely tapped his potential and with his size (6-3, 220) and speed (4.45) expect him to make an immediate impact in New York's system.
30) Tennessee Titans – DE Robert Ayers, Tennessee
Eklund's take: If Ayers is still available at number 30, it will be real hard for the Titans to pass up selecting the "hometown hero". Ayers blew up as a senior in 2008 and he had an outstanding week at the Senior Bowl. He'll be a good fit in Tennessee's system.
31) Arizona Cardinals – DE Michael Johnson, Georgia Tech
Eklund's take: The Cardinals need a player who can rush the quarterback and Johnson is someone who has really started to show his potential in offseason workouts. He's an outstanding athlete and he's got the ability to really be a force early in his NFL career.
32) Pittsburgh Steelers – CB Alphonso Smith, Wake Forest
Eklund's take: The Steelers could use another offensive lineman or another linebacker for depth, but Smith is a playmaker who can also return punts and kicks. He's supremely confident in his abilities with the ball in the air and he's someone who could be a contributor early in his career.
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