The NFL Combine starts this week, meaning the NFL Draft isn't far off. Let's take a look at my first attempt at a mock draft prior to all the 40 yard dashes and measurements that are sure to change our views on the top prospects:
1. Miami Dolphins: Matt Ryan, QB, Boston College: The Dolphins have needs across the board and could go in a number of directions with the first choice. But without a top-notch signal caller on board (Cleo Lemon and John Beck are their options), they go with Ryan at this spot.
2. St. Louis Rams: Glenn Dorsey, DT, LSU: Mock drafts across the internet have Dorsey going anywhere from #1 to #10. I don't see how his stock has dropped since dominating the National Championship game last month. He is still a top 3 pick, and the Rams would love to have him take the spot of the aging La'Roi Glover.
3*. Atlanta Falcons: Jake Long, OT, Michigan: The Falcons are cleaning house and have released many of their top veterans. Their needs are far and wide as well, and when rebuilding, why not grab a cornerstone left tackle and forget about that position for many years to come? While not the sexy pick, selecting offensive tackles this high is usually a safer bet than QB or other skill positions.
3*. Oakland Raiders: Darren McFadden, RB, Arkansas: While RB is not the Raiders biggest need (they resigned Justin Fargas after his solid performance last season), McFadden looks to be a rare talent at RB that you just don't want to pass up, especially if your name is Al Davis.
3*. Kansas City Chiefs: Chris Long, DE, Virginia: With OT and DB being a more pressing need, the Chiefs are forced to take the best player available instead of reaching at this spot. Chris Long is getting some play as the #1 pick, so to get him at #5 would be a great move by the Chiefs.
6. New York Jets: Sedrick Ellis, DT, USC: While many projections don't have Ellis as the best fit in a 3-4 defense, he is just too good to pass up here. He was the best player in Mobile at the Senior Bowl, and the Jets certainly could use help stopping the run. Vernon Gholston is another option since he may be best suited as a rush linebacker in the 3-4.
7. New England Patriots (from San Francisco) : Vernon Gholston, DE/LB, Ohio State: The rich get richer. A few years ago, Coach Belichick showed interested in another Ohio State DE, Will Smith. When he fell to the Saints spot, the Patriots called with trade offers. The Saints decided to keep the pick, and Belichick told them they got a great player. Fast forward a few years, and the Pats finally get to select the top DE from Ohio State in Gholston.
8. Baltimore Ravens: DeSean Jackson, WR, Cal: The Ravens need a QB, but look for them to go after another veteran in free agency and not reach for one here. Other options include OT, since Jonathan Ogden has been contemplating retirement for the past couple of seasons, but selecting a playmaker like Jackson is their best option here. He will add deep speed to the WR corps and also provide special teams ability to be paired with speedster Yamon Figures in the return game.
9. Cincinnati Bengals: Keith Rivers, LB, USC: Like teammate Sedrick Ellis, Rivers was one of the top players at the Senior Bowl. He solidified his spot as the top true linebacker in this year's class. The Bengals will be looking for help along the defensive line and linebacker in this year's draft, and Rivers is the best available of their needs.
10. New Orleans Saints: Mike Jenkins, CB, USF: The Saints are in desperate need of secondary help. Jenkins is getting play as the top corner in the draft, so he's the pick here. But that could all change at the Combine with good workouts by Troy's Leodis McKelvin or Kansas's Aqib Tallib. Tennessee State's Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has seen his stock soar, but he'd may still be a reach here. The Saints haven't shied away from small school prospects recently, so McKelvin or Rodgers-Cromartie will get a hard look. Regardless, they will be looking for defensive help, especially in the secondary, and Jenkins is my pick here.
11. Buffalo Bills: Malcolm Kelly, WR, Oklahoma: Almost every mock draft has the Bills taking a WR with this pick. Is that their only need? While they could use help at LB or D-Line, I'll go with the chalk pick and give them a WR as well. Kelly is a big target who would complement Lee Evans well in the passing game.
12. Denver Broncos: Ryan Clady, OT, Boise St.: The Broncos have had a solid offensive line for years. Age and retirements are forcing them to reload. Clady is seen by some as a top-10 pick, so he makes sense here.
13. Carolina Panthers: Kenny Phillips, S, Miami: The Panthers thought they solved their safety position a few years ago with Thomas Davis, but he has since been moved to LB. Safety Chris Harris is a good player and adding Phillips will give them a good pair in the back of their defense.
14. Chicago Bears: Chris Williams, OT, Vandy: The Bears could go in a number of directions, including QB. But they recently released tackle Fred Miller and needed to get younger on the offensive line anyway.
15. Detroit Lions: Aquib Talib, CB, Kansas: Detroit needs help in the secondary, and Talib should perform well at the combine and solidify his position as a top-15 pick. He has great size and ball skills with 13 career interceptions in college.
16. Arizona Cardinals: Derrick Harvey, DE, Florida: The Cardinals need help upfront and another end to pair with Darnell Dockett is the choice here. Harvey had 8.5 sacks last season for the Gators.
17. Minnesota Vikings: Brian Brohm, QB, Louisville: The Vikings may make a play for a QB in free agency as they already have a youngster on the roster. If they stay pat with the QBs they have, then Brohm becomes an intriguing choice if still available at this point. Once thought of as a top-5/10 pick, he has slipped recently. With solid workouts, he could be right back in the mix as the second QB off the board.
18. Houston Texans: Jonathan Stewart, RB, Oregon: The Texans used a number of running backs last year due to injuries. Getting a big back like Stewart would solve their rushing issues for years to come.
19. Philadelphia Eagles: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB, Tenn. St.: Rodgers-Cromartie wowed scouts in the all-star games and went from virtual unknown to first round prospect. The Eagles have announced that they are shopping CB Lito Sheppard, so they must have a plan in place for his successor and that could be Rodgers-Cromartie.
20. Tampa Bay Bucs: Kentwan Balmer, DT, North Carolina: The Bucs have been missing a big man to take up the middle of the defensive line since they parted ways with Warren Sapp and Booger McFarland. Balmer is the consensus #3 DT and could be off the board before the Bucs even get on the clock. John Gruden loves offensive playmakers, so don't rule out a wide receiver or running back, especially with Cadillac Williams' injury, with this pick either.
21. Washington Redskins: Calais Campbell, DE, Miami: The Redskins need pass rushers, and Campbell provides that and more with his 6'8" frame. He had a more productive sophomore season than his junior one, but all-in-all he recorded 19 sacks at the U.
22. Dallas Cowboys (from Cleveland): Leodis McKelvin, CB, Troy: Dallas is a prime candidate to trade up in this draft with two first round picks. Jerry Jones is rumored to be interested in McFadden, but he may have to give up too much to get him. If they stay put, secondary help is one of their needs. They've already struck gold with Troy's DeMarcus Ware, so why not visit the school again and grab McKelvin?
23. Pittsburgh Steelers: Jeff Otah, OT, Pittsburgh: The Steelers stay in their home state to pick up their next clog in their solid offensive line. Alan Faneca likely has played his last game with the Steelers. By drafting Otah they can move someone else inside and plug him in at tackle.
24. Tennessee Titans: Limas Sweed, WR, Texas: The Titans go back to the University of Texas to get Vince Young some offensive help. Sweed is a big target who Young is familiar with. He missed some time last season with injuries, but if he shows that he's fully recovered, he could be one of the pieces that the Titans need to go further in the playoffs.
25. Seattle Seahawks: Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Illinois: While on the surface, RB wouldn't look to be an immediate need for the Seahawks, Shaun Alexander was a shell of his for self last year. The team actually looked better when they went to a more air-it-out attack when Alexander was injured. Bringing in a stud like Mendenhall will stop any worries about the running game. With Jim Mora set to take over next year, he has not ties to Alexander, so this could be his last season in the Pacific Northwest.
26. Jacksonville Jaguars: Phillip Merling, DE, Clemson: The Jaguars will be looking for depth at defensive end and with new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams on board, look for the defense to be a focus early in the draft. Merling could move up in the draft after the combine and individual workouts.
27. San Diego Chargers: Quentin Groves, DE/LB, Auburn: The Chargers may be looking for help on the defensive line and linebacker spots, and Groves could help in both areas. His future may be at LB, but he could fill in at end as well. He should have solid workouts and while not considered a first round lock right now, in a few weeks, he could be.
28. Dallas Cowboys: Felix Jones, RB, Arkansas: The Cowboys will likely lose RB Julius Jones during free agency. While they do have pro bowl back Marion Barber ready to be the starter (he was the better back anyway), the two RB system has worked for Dallas so far. Jones comes to the NFL having played along side Darren McFadden in the Razorbacks' two-back system. Coming from Jerry Jones' alma matter won't hurt either.
29. San Francisco 49ers (from Indianapolis): Early Doucet, WR, LSU: The 49ers were one of the more disappointing teams last year. Their offense couldn't get out of first gear with Alex Smith or Trent Dilfer at the helm. They've brought in new offensive coordinator Mike Martz to jump start that side of the ball, and he will look for playmakers. Two LSU WR went in the first round last year, which should help Doucet's case even with his injury-marred senior season. The 49ers showed interest him at the Senior Bowl, and if he's over his injuries, he would be a solid pickup.
30. Green Bay Packers: Sam Baker, OT, USC: The Packers were a surprise team last year, making it the the conference championship. They are a relatively young team and getting better on the offensive line never hurts. Baker provides great value here.
31. New England Patriots: Pick Forfeited: The Patriots cheated and lost their first round pick.
32. New York Giants: Reggie Smith, CB/S, Oklahoma: The Giants secondary was picked on in the playoffs, but youngsters like Corey Webster and Aaron Ross stepped up to the challenge in most instances. Adding a good, young safety like Smith to the mix will help out their coverages, allow the front four to do more damage.
*Order to be determined by coin toss at Combine
For more draft information, check out NFL Draft Countown, WalterFootball.com and HailRedskins.com.
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