With the first 16 teams selecting what they hope to be immediate impact players, it’s time to finish my first mock draft and tell you who teams 17-32 will select. Here we go.
17. San Fransisco 49er’s
- Anthony Davis, OT, Rutgers
- With their second first-round pick in the last five spots, the 49er’s will take RT Anthony Davis out of Rutgers, if he’s still on the board (which he should be). As anyone who knows football will tell you, building a successful team starts with building your offensive and defensive lines. With Joe Staley at LT, the 49er’s would really like to add another solid player of Staley’s caliber opposite him at RT. Sure, Davis didn’t have the best combine, but again, the combine only means so much. If he’s on the board at #17, San Fransisco will take him because of how many offensive lineman have already been drafted. The bottom line is that the Niners need a RT, and Davis is more reward than risk (as of now).
18. Pittsburgh Steelers
- Dez Bryant, WR, Oklahoma State
- The slide has ended. Dez Bryant should be drafted here by the Steelers if he’s still available. This moves makes a lot of sense for Pittsburgh for a few reasons. He instantly replaces Santonio Holmes. He isn’t just a receiver, he is the same type of receiver as Holmes (a “Z” receiver–who goes in motion, sometimes runs reverses, a vertical threat). Yeah, Bryant has off-field trouble like Holmes did, but Holmes’ trouble dealt with drugs and alcohol. Bryant’s trouble has to deal with supposedly illegally consulting with Deion Sanders, according to the NCAA. Also, I wrote how the Broncos shouldn’t take Bryant at #11. Pittsburgh is a much better franchise than Denver. They know how to deal with problems and turn them into progress. If Bryant is the player we think he can be, he can take the Steelers to being a team with a scary defense and an offense in shambles, to a team with a scary defense and a “don’t sleep on us or we’ll burn you” offense. As long as Pittsburgh can take an honest look at Bryant and see that there aren’t any major red flags, he’s worth the pick at #18.
19. Atlanta Falcons
- Earl Thomas, FS, Texas
- Let’s be real. The Saints are the big dog in the NFL, and obviously in their division. The Falcons are good, but not as good. So, how do they get better? A pass rusher or versatile defensive back is what they need here. Brandon Graham and Sean Weatherspoon would be very good picks here, but even the best pass rushers (Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis) didn’t do much to Drew Brees and the Saints in the Super Bowl (yes, Freeney was hurt, but he played well). What do the Saints do better than any other team in the league? Pass the ball. Their offense is seemingly limitless in terms of the number of players who can effectively run routes and catch the ball. Therefore, if the Falcons want to contend with the Saints, they need as many impact players in their secondary as they can get. Earl Thomas is that player. He is a safety, but could play corner. He is very close to Eric Berry in just about every way. The reason he gets picked this low is because all the other teams ahead of the Falcons needed to fill other positions besides safety. With Thomas (and new CB Dunta Robinson) in the Falcons’ defensive backfield, the Falcons won’t stop the Saints passing attack, but they can certainly slow it down.
20. Houston Texans
- Kyle Wilson, CB, Boise State
- The Texans are one of the most complete teams in the league. They have a pro bowl QB (Matt Schaub), a pro bowl TE (Owen Daniels) the best receiver and a top five offensive player in league (Andre Johnson). On the defensive side, they have an ever-improving DE (Mario Williams) and very good LBs (DeMeco Ryans and Brian Cushing). The one big hole is left by CB Dunta Robinson, who signed with the Atlanta Falcons. So unless Earl Thomas is off the board, they should go with Wilson. He knows what it’s like to have to earn everything on the field after playing his college ball at Boise State. Not only will having Wilson help the Texans against the Colts, but Wilson tackles well, so when Chris Johnson breaks runs to the outside, maybe Wilson will be there to stop him (ok, maybe Wilson will be there to contain him).
21. Cincinnati Bengals
- Sean Weatherspoon, LB, Missouri
- Cinci’s corners are good, and they’re young. The Bengals defense as a whole is good, but they could use a safety or a linebacker. Taylor Mays is available, and the only reason he should be considered here is because of his physicality. His technique is bad. But in this division, every game is going to be especially physical (Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Cleveland all run offenses primarily off of their respective running games). Weatherspoon is a “Marvin Lewis” type player. He reminds you of Ray Lewis coming out of Miami, in the sense that he (Weatherspoon), like Lewis, is a little undersized, but is as good a football player at his position as there is. Weatherspoon has also said he’s willing and able to play any linebacker position (mike–middle, sam–strong side, will–weak side, jack–“hybrid”). Other than Rolando McClain, Weatherspoon is the best linebacker prospect in this draft. Marvin Lewis knows exceptional defensive talent when he sees it. The Bengals will be pleased to draft Weatherspoon at #21 overall.
22. New England Patriots
- Jermaine Gresham, TE, Oklahoma
- The only major hole in the New England offense (even more-so than running back) is at tight end. Ben Watson and Chris Baker were serviceable, but now they are gone. Gresham missed last season due to injury, but he is the top TE prospect in the 2010 draft class. Not to mention, Wes Welker won’t be able to play at the start of the 2010 season due to rehab on his knee. So, getting another top target opposite Randy Moss is paramount for the Patriots.
23. Green Bay Packers
- Charles Brown, OT, USC
- Aaron Rodgers needs protection. The Packers gave up 51 sacks and 93 QB hits last season (1st and 8th in the league, respectively). Most other pieces are in place, except for LT. Charles Brown is their guy at the 23rd pick. Most of the Green Bay offense is still young enough to where you can draft a franchise LT that can play with them for a very long time. Brown played at USC which is like the Miami of the west, in terms of preparing their players to get drafted in and play well in the NFL. He would be a very good fit in Green Bay (re-uniting with former Trojan teammate Clay Matthews).
24. Philadelphia Eagles
- Ryan Matthews, RB, Fresno State
- Another very good team that, even with huge loss of Donovan McNabb, can still be good. Major needs are: RB, S and LB. Although LeSean McCoy looked good last year, he wasn’t carrying the full load as a starter. This year, he will be the starter, and as we all know, no team features just one running back anymore (especially in a division like the NFC East). Matthews gained over 1,800 yards and 19 TDs last season alone. He should be on the board, but not after the Eagles take him. As I mentioned, safety is a position of interest for the Eagles, but the two top-tier guys (Berry and Thomas) should be gone by this point. Also, Brandon Graham would make sense here as well, but he played primarily DE in college. That position on the Eagles belongs to Trent Cole. So, if you wanted to draft him, you’d put him at LB. People say Graham is undersized, which usually doesn’t mean a lot. But in the NFC East, when you’re facing RBs like Marion Barber, Brandon Jacobs and Clinton Portis, undersized is something you don’t want to be. Matthews proved he can gain yards and a lot of them. He will be a very good compliment to McCoy (as well as a pressure-reliever for Kolb, Vick, or whoever is under center for the Eagles this season).
25. Baltimore Ravens
- Brandon Graham, DE/LB, Michigan
- The three major needs for the Ravens are (in this order): CB, TE, DL. The two top corners (Haden & Wilson) and the top TE (Gresham) should be gone by this point. Dan Gronkowski is a good TE out of Arizona, but the Ravens may see him as a reach considering who else is available. Graham fits the Ravens defense perfectly. He is a versatile player who plays through the whistle. With the loss of Justin Bannan (Denver) and Dwan Edwards, as well as the aging of Kelly Gregg and Ray Lewis, Graham would be the perfect fit in Baltimore.
26. Arizona Cardinals
- Golden Tate, WR, Notre Dame
- Quarterback would be the ideal pick, but the best QB’s remaining are Tim Tebow and Colt McCoy. I think this is a little too high to pick them. If not QB, then the Cardinals need a WR who can do some of everything (diversity of route running, YAC, etc). Arrelious Benn and Demaryius Thomas are great physical specimens, but have major questions about their respective games that remain unanswered (Benn: consistent pass-catching, Thomas: route-running). Tate caught 96 passes for 1496 yards (15.6 ypc) and 15 TDs last season at Notre Dame. He played in a pro-style offense (various formations, line audibles, etc.). It is a pre-requisite to gain yards after the catch if you want to be a Cardinals receiver. Tate can do that and more. Oh, by the way, he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.36 seconds at the combine.
27. Dallas Cowboys
- Taylor Mays, FS, USC
- I said his technique was bad, but you can’t ignore his talent for this long. One of the only holes Dallas has is at safety. They cut FS Ken Hamlin, which opens the door for Taylor Mays to continue his big-time football career in Big D. Jerry Jones is like Al Davis, but smarter. He tends to draft players he wants more than players he needs, but the players he (Jones) does draft have potential to succeed. Again, on a team as talented as the Cowboys, they can afford to take the risk of drafting Mays. Another option for the Cowboys could be to draft an offensive tackle, but that isn’t as big a need for them as is safety.
28. San Diego Chargers
- Jahvid Best, RB, California
- Running back, running back, running back. They would love to draft Ryan Matthews, but I think he will be gone by this point. To best utilize Darren Sproles, he must have a running back capable of starting right away. Jahvid Best has great talent, but he also has a few questions regarding his durability. However those questions won’t prohibit the Chargers from passing up on his elite talent. Best is probably the best pass-catching RB in this draft.
29. New York Jets
- Jared Odrick, DL, Penn State
- What have the Jets done to deserve all of this good fortune? With this pick, they become a favorite to challenge the Colts (again) for the AFC title. Odrick is a well-schooled, versatile, tough defensive lineman–which is right up Rex Ryan’s ally. Playing without Kris Jenkins for most of last year hurt the Jets (especially in the playoffs). To get a player like Odrick this late in the first round is a gift the Jets will gladly accept.
30. Minnesota Vikings
- Kareem Jackson, CB, Alabama
- Cornerback is the position of need for the Vikings. Obviously, their offense at every position is set. Their defensive line and linebackers are ridiculously talented. That leaves the secondary to be addressed here . Jackson is one of those players who will follow-up his success in college with a good career in the pros. His technique is very good (say what you want about Nick Saban the person, but the man is an elite defensive college coach). Cedric Griffin’s ACL injury adds all the more importance to take a player of Jackson’s caliber and run.
31. Indianapolis Colts
- Sergio Kindle, DE/LB, Texas
- The Colts’ defense is built on one thing: speed. With all-pros Bob Sanders and Dwight Freeney healthy heading into the 2010 season, what better way is there to solidify the Colts defense than to add Kindle to the mix. He can do many things. The beauty of him being drafted to the Colts is that they are so talented on the defensive line and in the secondary, he will be able to play within himself and his own position (he won’t be asked to do too much). The concern with Kindle is whether or not he can handle the mental aspect of playing in the NFL.
32. New Orleans Saints
- Carlos Dunlap, DE, Florida
- The reigning Super Bowl champs will likely look to enhance either their offensive or defensive line with this pick. It’s between Maurkice Pouncey (G,C Florida), Carlos Dunlap (DE, Florida) and Brian Price (DT, UCLA). Any of these players could help the Saints continue their winning ways. Pouncey is out, but only because the Saints need more help on their defensive line. Now it’s between Price and Dunlap. Price played very well while at UCLA, but Dunlap played better on the best team in the best conference in college football. Dunlap made a stupid mistake as he was convicted of DUI before this year’s Sugar Bowl. But if that’s the only drawback to drafting him, it’s well worth it. If Dunlap does have a substance abuse problem (which there is no evidence that it is a recurring problem), he can go to rehab or a doctor. But a doctor can’t teach his athleticism or how to rush the passer like he can. Anthony Hargrove, reserve DT for the Saints, has had similar problems with substance abuse. However, the Saints believed in him. Do they believe in Dunlap? I think Sean Payton makes another controversial, yet calculated move by selecting Dunlap and his great pass-rushing ability with the last pick in the first round.
So there it is. My first mock draft is complete. For the record, watch out for DE Dexter Davis from Arizona State (my sleeper pick of the draft).
I hope you enjoyed reading this. It took many hours and almost 5,000 words, but it’s finished.
Thanks for reading.