Last year no wide receivers were taken in the first round. This year, we might see a dramatic difference. A lot of attention has been focused on Michael Crabtree and Jeremy Maclin, but there could be as many as five receivers taken in the first round this year. Here's my latest mock draft and for the first time in weeks, there's a change at Seattle's fourth overall pick.
1 Detroit Lions - Matt Stafford (QB, Georgia)
This pick has to be Stafford. The Lions have the 20th overall pick as well, so they are well positioned to add to their offensive line or defense later on. They won't however, find a franchise signal caller that late in the first round.
2 St Louis Rams - Eugene Monroe (OT, Virginia)
This might seem a surprise considering Jason Smith appeared to have separated himself from the rest of the offensive tackles. Smith does has bigger upside, but Monroe is more polished and ready to start. If the Rams want instant production, Monroe could be the pick.
3 Kansas City Chiefs - Michael Crabtree (WR, Texas Tech)
Lost amongst the hype surrounding his injury, it's easy to forget a few weeks ago Crabtree was considered the most dynamic prospect in the 2009 draft. Many expect the Chiefs to improve their defense by drafting Aaron Curry. That is an option, but no linebacker has been taken this early since LaVarr Arrington (2nd overall, 2000). Having traded for Matt Cassel their priority could be to make his transition to a new team as smooth as possible. What better way to do that than giving him Crabtree, Dwayne Bowe and Tony Gonzalez to throw to? Scott Pioli appointed Todd Haley because he coached a great offense in Arizona this year - based on a superb passing game.
4 Seattle Seahawks - Jason Smith (OT, Baylor)
The Seahawks have made it clear they intend to deploy a zone blocking scheme this year and Smith is the perfect fit for such a system. Seattle signed T.J. Houshmandzadeh so they wouldn't be left in this situation with Crabtree off the board. If Smith makes it passed the Rams and with Crabtree not an option, he's an obvious choice for the Seahawks fourth overall.
5 Cleveland Browns - Aaron Curry (LB, Wake Forest)
The Browns will be very happy if Curry makes it this far. They need an upgrade to their pass rush and Curry is just the ticket. He can also set the tone for Cleveland's defense and offer valuable leadership.
Click here to see the rest of the picks.
6 Cincinnati Bengals - Chris Wells (RB, Ohio State)
The Bengals would have loved to see one of the top two offensive tackles make it this far, but with Smith and Monroe off the board they are forced to look elsewhere. Wells has a vibrant personality and would be something of a local hero in Cincinnati. The Bengals need that kind of PR boost and Cedric Benson isn't a long term option at running back.
7 Oakland Raiders - B.J. Raji (DT, Boston College)
Raji has some character concerns after being red shirted ahead of his senior year. One guy who won't care about that is Al Davis, who will love Raji's nasty streak and ability to dominate the opposition's offensive line. Raji has the big body to improve Oakland's poor rush defense, but is also capable of getting to the quarter back.
8 Jacksonville Jaguars - Jeremy Maclin (WR, Missouri)
The Jaguars would have liked to have a shot at one of the top two offensive tackles. They're forced to look elsewhere and could settle on Jeremy Maclin. Injury affected his work out in Indianapolis but he's a talented prospect with upside who can have an instant impact as a punt/kick returner.
9 Green Bay Packers - Brian Orakpo (DE, Texas)
Switching to a 3-4 defense, the Packers need another OLB to play across from Aaron Kampman. Orakpo is almost identical physically to Terrell Suggs and could be equally effective for the Packers.
10 San Francisco 49ers - Andre Smith (OT, Alabama)
Smith had a nightmare at the combine. Unimpressive during interviews he then disappeared and didn't work out. Some have predicted he could drop right down the draft board, but the talent is there - he just needs the guidance. Mike Singletary is the perfect head coach to take Smith under his wing. The 49ers want to dominate in the running game and Smith would be perfect at right tackle.
11 Buffalo Bills - Michael Oher (OT, Ole Miss)
The Bills have more pressing needs but a lack of pure 4-3 defensive ends mean they'll look elsewhere. Jason Peters held out at the start of last year and was a big disappointment on his return. Teams really value the tackle position these days, so don't expect many of the top talents in this draft to drop too far.
12 Denver Broncos - Everette Brown (DE/OLB Florida State)
Brown didn't light up the combine like some people expected and unless the 49ers are sold on his talents, he likely isn't a top 10 pick. The Broncos could use his pass rushing abilities as a DE/OLB hybrid in their new 3-4 scheme.
13 Washington Redskins - Knowshon Moreno (RB, Georgia)
With only four picks in the 2009 draft the Redskins will look for an 'impact' player in the first round. Moreno didn't have a great combine but he's a dynamic running back who would be perfect in a two back system with Clinton Portis.
14 New Orleans Saints - Brian Cushing (LB, USC)
Like the Broncos, it's defense that holds back this team from being a real force. They have needs at secondary and at linebacker and Cushing has done enough over the last few weeks to warrant consideration as a top 20 pick.
15 Houston Texans - Vontae Davis (CB, Illinois)
Davis benefited more than anyone after concerns about Macolm Jenkins' recovery speed were compounded at the combine. Davis has more potential to be a lockdown corner and that's why the Texans will take him above Jenkins.
16 San Diego Chargers - Tyson Jackson (DE, LSU)
Jackson is perfectly suited to play as a 3-4 defensive end in San Diego's scheme. Igor Olshansky is on his way out and Jackson would be the perfect replacement.
17 New York Jets - Percy Harvin (WR, Florida)
There are legitimate concerns about Harvin's ability to stay healthy. However, nobody doubts his talent. Harvin can be a complete play maker as a wide out, taking a few snaps in a wild cat and even returning a few kicks. The Jets could go quarter back, but Rex Ryan seems content to let Brett Ratliff, Kellen Clemens and Erik Ainge fight it out.
18 Chicago Bears - Mark Sanchez (QB, USC)
I have Sanchez falling out of the top 10 and if this happens expect a few teams to try and trade up before this pick. Bears GM Jerry Angelo has often talked about getting better at quarter back and if Sanchez makes it this far, he could be the pick.
19 Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Josh Freeman (QB, Kansas State)
If the Buccs don't find a quarter back before the draft, in this position they have to take Freeman - he's the last realistic option to start quickly. New head coach Raheem Morris worked with Freeman at K-State during the QB's freshman year.
20 Detroit Lions - James Laurinaitis (LB, Ohio State)
Having got their franchise quarter back with the first overall pick, they pick up their defensive leader in Laurinaitis. The combine was never going to show the true benefit of Laurinaitis, but he could be the guy they rebuild their defense around.
21 Philadelphia Eagles - Malcolm Jenkins (CB/S, Ohio State)
Jenkins stock dropped dramatically when he ran poorly at the combine. It just confirmed what critics saw when he played for the Buckeye's - his recovery speed is too much of a liability. He is facing a switch to safety which could drop him down the board significantly. The Eagles have two first round picks so can afford to bank Jenkins here. With Brian Dawkins now a Bronco - Jenkins could be a long term replacement.
22 Minnesotta Vikings - Darrius Butler (CB, Connecticut)
Butler is moving up draft boards after impressing at both the combine and the Senior Bowl. The Vikings brought in Sage Rosenfels recently so are less likely to trade up for Mark Sanchez or Josh Freeman. Instead, they could look to upgrade their secondary.
23 New England Patriots - Aaron Maybin (DE/OLB, Penn State)
Maybin would be perfect as a DE/LB hybrid in a 3-4 defense. The Pats had great success drafting Jared Mayo to play inside last year and now they could focus on the exterior. Mike Vrabel has moved on to Kansas City, so the Patriots might look for a replacement.
24 Atlanta Falcons - Brandon Pettigrew (TE, Oklahoma State)
Pettigrew is an old fashioned tight end who can block and catch. The Falcons would like a quality TE to replace Alge Crumpler who was cut this time last year.
25 Miami Dolphins - Rey Maualuga (LB, USC)
Maualuga's stock has dropped somewhat in recent weeks and he injured himself running at the combine. He is a talented ILB though and suits the 3-4 defensive scheme used by Miami. He'd present good value at this spot.
26 Baltimore Ravens - Darrius Heyward-Bey (WR, Maryland)
Heyward-Bey posted a superb run in the 40 yard dash, clocking a sub 4.3. He's all about speed so he needs to play for a team that has a QB with a huge arm. His production at college was poor - he didn't rank amongst the top 124 receivers. That'll put a lot of teams off, but in Joe Flacco the Ravens have a quarter back whose arm can make Heyward-Bey a star.
27 Indianapolis Colts - Hakeem Nicks (WR, North Carolina)
Marvin Harrison has been cut by the Colts and unless he re-signs to a smaller contract, he'll leave a hole at wide receiver. Hakeem Nicks could be a possible replacement and had big games against Miami, Notre Dame and Boston College for the Tar Heels in 2008. Drafting Nicks allows the Colts to keep Anthony Gonzalez in the slot.
28 Philadelphia Eagles - Eben Britton (OT, Arizona)
The Eagles could draft a running back to support Brian Westbrook or even a wide receiver, but with a premium on offensive tackles they see the value in Eben Britton. He excelled at both right and left tackle in Arizona and can be plugged into the line from day one by Philly.
29 New York Giants - Clay Matthews Jr. (LB, USC)
Matthews Jr. put in a solid performance at the combine and made sure teams are thinking of him as a first round pick. The Giants love guys who can get to the quarter back and this guy fits the bill.
30 Tennessee Titans - Robert Ayers (DE, Tennessee)
Many pundits expect the Titans to go wide receiver here but they have resisted that temptation before and I think they will again. Ayers is a local boy who may be more suited to a 3-4 defense, but the Titans need to add depth at defensive end.
31 Arizona Cardinals - Larry English (LB, North Illinois)
The Cardinals are reportedly making the transition to more of a 3-4 defense, so English makes sense here. The Cardinals need an upgrade at outside line backer.
32 Pittsburgh Steelers - Sean Smith (CB/S, Utah)
A lot of people expect the Steelers to upgrade their offensive line here, but they consistently ignore need to take the best player on their board. Smith had a great combine, showing off great size and athleticism.