1) Detroit Lions – QB Matthew Stafford, Georgia
Eklund’s take: Detroit only has one viable QB on their roster right now and while Dante Culpepper is a player who has had success at the pro level, they need to start grooming their quarterback of the future and Stafford is a player who fits perfectly with the personnel that the Lions have. It would be an absolute shock if Detroit takes anyone other than the Georgia signal-caller.
2) St. Louis Rams – OT Jason Smith, Baylor
Eklund’s take: I liked Smith as junior in 2007 when he made the move to the left side for the Bears and he never disappointed me with his athleticism and quick feet. What he lacks in technique as a run-blocker should be easy to pick up because he’s such a good athlete. This is a no-brainer pick for the Rams and will solidify the left tackle position for years to come.
3) Kansas City Chiefs – LB Aaron Curry, Wake Forest
Eklund’s take: This is where the Draft could look a lot different. There are some speculating that the Chiefs could take Virginia OT Eugene Monroe here to upgrade their offensive line that will be tasked with protecting newly acquired QB Matt Cassel. However, their defense was terrible in 2008 and with that I believe that GM Scott Pioli will go for arguably the best player available and that is Curry.
4) Seattle Seahawks – WR Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech
Eklund’s take: People fell in love with Crabtree during the season and over the past two years there hasn’t been a more prolific receiver in the game. Seattle has a plethora of talented receivers, but two (Nate Burleson and Deion Branch) have missed time the past two seasons with major injuries. Another possibility is USC QB Mark Sanchez here, but I just don’t see them taking him unless Matt Hasselbeck’s back is worse than the team is letting on.
5) Cleveland Browns – DE Brian Orakpo, Texas
Eklund’s take: Cleveland has a lot of holes to fill and if Crabtree is still available, they will have a lot of thinking to do when their pick comes around. However, in our scenario the Texas Tech wideout is off the board so they go after a fast-rising defensive playmaker like Orakpo who can play linebacker in a 3-4 or end in a 4-3. Orakpo is an amazing athlete who immediately upgrades the defensive front four with his presence.
6) Cincinnati Bengals – OT Eugene Monroe, Virginia
Eklund’s take: The Bengals have a lot of holes, but the offensive line is in dire need of attention Levi Jones can’t stay healthy and they lost Stacy Andrews to Philadelphia in free agency, so the need is huge here and Monroe is the best player available at this point.
7) Oakland Raiders – WR Jeremy Maclin, Missouri
Eklund’s take: The best selection here would be Boston College DT B.J. Raji, but with the “Crypt Keeper” still making the call on who the Raiders ultimately select, Maclin is the logical choice because of his speed and playmaking abilities.
8) Jacksonville Jaguars – QB Mark Sanchez, USC
Eklund’s take: The Jags could take anyone of the a group of players to fill their needs, but with Sanchez falling this far, he is the likely selection, even if Jacksonville decides to trade down it will likely be with a team who has targeted the USC signal-caller as a “must-get”.
9) Green Bay Packers – OT Andre Smith, Alabama
Eklund’s take: Smith was once projected as the number one overall selection early in the Draft process, but bad workouts and showing up out of shape to the combine have caused his stock to plummet. However, it’s not everyday that a player with his potential is still available with the ninth selection. The Packers should be able to whip him into shape and get a steal if he lives up to his potential.
10) San Franscisco – DE Aaron Maybin, Penn State
Eklund’s take: The 49ers don’t really have a need at defensive end, but Maybin is versatile enough to play in a 3-4 as a stand-up pass-rusher or at end in a 4-3. He is still very young and should have a chance to really explode as a playmaker within his first two years in the league. As a sophomore in 2008, Maybin had 49 tackles, 20 tackles-for-loss and 12 sacks coming off the edge for the Nittany Lions.
11) Buffalo Bills – DE Tyson Jackson, LSU
Eklund’s take: The Bills could go a number of ways with needs at defensive end, linebacker, tight end and along the offensive line, but Jackson’s talents are too much to pass up here. He can move inside on passing downs and on regular downs he can be a solid strongside defensive end prospect. With Aaron Schoebel looking like he might be on the downside of his solid career, the Bills must find someone to help generate something of a pass-rush.
12) Denver Broncos – DT B.J. Raji, Boston College
Eklund’s take: With some questions being raised about his off-field character, Raji falls to the Broncos who would be thrilled to see him still available for a defense that was terrible in 2008. They could also opt for someone like Robert Ayers from Tennessee or Everette Brown from Florida State, but Raji’s talent is too good to pass up here.
13) Washington Redskins – DE Robert Ayers, Tennessee
Eklund’s take: Rumors have been swirling that the Redskins are working hard behind the scenes to move up to select Sanchez, but it’s sounding more and more like they won’t be able to get it done and if that’s the case then they stand pat and select the best player available that fits their needs and Ayers would be a solid selection here because of his athleticism and his ability to get after the quarterback.
14) New Orleans – RB Chris Wells, Ohio State
Eklund’s take: Reggie Bush isn’t a 25 carry per game back, but with Wells available to take carries that could maximize what the explosive runner could do for the Saints throughout the season. Wells is a bruiser with an extra-gear and he’s someone that would make New Orleans’ already potent offense even that much more explosive. Another potential selection here could be Wells’ teammate Malcolm Jenkins who would be a real upgrade to the Saints secondary at either corner or safety.
15) Houston Texans – LB Brian Cushing, USC
Eklund’s take: Cushing is the most complete linebacker on the board, but he could be battling it out with two of his teammates (Rey Maualuga and Clay Matthews) to see who the next backer to come off the board will be. Cushing doesn’t rush the quarterback well, but he does everything else well and he’s super athletic. He’s the best fit here.
16) San Diego Chargers – OT Michael Oher, Mississippi
Eklund’s take: The Chargers could use a true strong safety or a running back as well, but Oher is a player who has a ton of potential and could play either right or left tackle and that makes him the selection over a guy like Georgia RB Knowshon Moreno who would be a great back in their scheme, but someone who wouldn’t see the field much in his first few seasons.
17) New York Jets – QB Josh Freeman, Kansas State
Eklund’s take: After the top two quarterbacks there’s a pretty big drop to Freeman who has all the physical skills you could want, but he has a slow delivery and he makes some poor decisions with the ball at times. The Jets are desperately looking for ways to move up far enough to get into the mix for selecting Sanchez who they are rumored to like over everyone, but if they can’t do it they will settle on Freeman.
18) Denver Broncos (from Chicago) – CB/S Malcolm Jenkins, Ohio State
Eklund’s take: Almost the entire Broncos draft should focus on the defensive side of the ball and after addressing their biggest need at defensive tackle with their first selection, they opt to select the best defensive back available in the Draft. Jenkins doesn’t have the top end speed to be a man-to-man cover corner, but he can play corner in a cover-two scheme or be a free safety that plays centerfield and makes plays on the ball when it’s in the air. Another possibility here is Brown who could add to the pass rush, but Jenkins is the better value.
19) Tampa Bay Buccaneers – LB Larry English, Northern Illinois
Eklund’s take: English is a pass-rushing freak who also has the speed and change-of-direction necessary to become a solid outside linebacker. The Buccaneers need a quarterback and a defensive tackle as well, but with Freeman already taken and Mississippi DT Peria Jerry not fitting the bill for what they are looking for in an interior defensive lineman, English or USC’s Clay Matthews are the most likely selections. A darkhorse hear could be Maryland WR Darius Heyward-Bey.
20) Detroit Lions (from Dallas) – LB Rey Maualuga, USC
Eklund’s take: The Lions picked up a quarterback to run their offense and here they get a quarterback for their defense with quite possibly the most physically imposing middle linebacker to come out of college in years. Maualuga is a run-stopper supreme and he’s a tempo-setter much like Ray Lewis is for the Baltimore defense.
21) Philadelphia Eagles – RB Knowshon Moreno, Georgia
Eklund’s take: Even with Brian Westbrook already in the fold and proving to be one of the top backs in the NFL, the Eagles could use another back to take some of the load off of the diminutive feature back. Moreno is the perfect fit in Philadelphia’s offense because he’s an excellent receiver and he’s tough enough to run between the tackles.
22) Minnesota Vikings – WR Percy Harvin, Florida
Eklund’s take: Yeah his stock has been falling because of some reports out there about his off-field issues and character, but that doesn’t discount what Harvin can bring to an offense. He’s got blazing speed and quickness and he’s a homerun threat anytime he gets his hands on the ball.
23) New England – LB Clay Matthews, USC
Eklund’s take: If Cushing or English fell this far they would be better fits in the Patriots’ scheme, but Bellichick has always succeeded with blue-collar player like Matthews who might not have the greatest athletic numbers. If not Matthews, then you could look at Heyward-Bey here or possibly Jerry as well.
24) Atlanta Falcons – TE Brandon Pettigrew, Oklahoma State
Eklund’s take: The Falcons could go a number of ways, but Pettigrew is the best value left on the board at this point. He would be yet another target for second-year QB Matt Ryan to throw the ball too and he’s an outstanding red-zone target as well. Jerry is the other player they would look long and hard at, but with Pettrigrew sitting there staring them in the face, I doubt Atlanta’s braintrust will pass on him.
25) Miami Dolphins – CB Vontae Davis, Illinois
Eklund’s take: The Dolphins have several needs in order to improve on their surprising 11-5 record and first place finish in the AFC East. Davis was originally thought to be a top 10 talent, but teams started to drop him due to some character questions, however he’d be a steal for Miami with this pick.
26) Baltimore Ravens – WR Darius Heyward-Bey, Maryland
Eklund’s take: Heyward-Bey is a “boom or bust” player who possesses outstanding speed and size, but he’s inconsistent and more of a track guy at this point than a receiver. However, he would add an explosive element to the Ravens’ attack that hasn’t been there for quite some time.
27) Indianapolis Colts – DT Peria Jerry, Mississippi
Eklund’s take: The Colts are in the market for several positions, but Jerry is too good to pass up this late in the first round. He’s exactly what Indy needs – a penetrating three-technique tackle who can collapse the pocket allowing their outstanding pass rushers to get to the quarterback.
28) Buffalo Bills (from Carolina/Philadelphia) – OT Eben Britton, Arizona
Eklund’s take: I could see the Bills taking one of three players here, but Britton fills the huge void created when they traded Jason Peters to the Eagles. Britton is smart and he’s got good feet, so he shouldn’t struggle too much in the transition to the pro game. The other two possibilities here would be California C Alex Mack or North Carolina WR Hakeem Nix.
29) New York Giants – WR Kenny Britt, Rutgers
Eklund’s take: Why not take the hometown boy who would immediately replace the departed Plexico Burress. Britt has good speed and he’s huge (6-3, 220) and he’ll be playing in front of friends and family. He can contribute right away to the Giants’ offense.
30) Tennessee Titans – LB James Laurinitas, Ohio State
Eklund’s take: The third Buckeye taken in the first round could end up being the best. As a junior in 2007, Laurinitas was considered one of the top players in the country and many were surprised when he returned. As a senior in 2008 he didn’t have the same impact, struggling some with over-aggressiveness and missed tackles. However, he’s smart and he would fit in nicely with the Tennessee defense.
31) Arizona Cardinals– RB Donald Brown, Connecticut
Eklund’s take: If there’s a running back in this class that emulates Edgerrin James’ style, it’s Brown who is deceptively fast and is a tough runner on the inside. He’s got just enough speed to get the edge and he’s a player that will wear down defenses.
32) Pittsburgh Steelers – DE Everette Brown, Florida State
Eklund’s take: The rich get richer. After doing several mocks this week, I was never able to pull the trigger on Brown who is a classic ‘tweener. He’d be great as a rush linebacker in a 3-4 and that’s exactly what he would be with the Steelers.