Thursday, 5 March 2009

Mock draft: Receivers in demand

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.


Anonymous said...

For the same reason the Seahawks don't pass on Crabtree if he's there, I don't see them passing on Curry if he's there either. While the team is solid at both positions now, you just don't pass up the most likely All Pros in the draft. If you get one, you trade or cut the least cost effective or oldest guy on the team.

Rob Staton said...

Hi annonymous,

Although I agree Curry is an exciting prospect, I think the Seahawks will have Jason Smith very high on their draft board. If he's there at pick four and with the way the draft has fallen, I think they'd have to take Smith - who is ideal for the zone blocking scheme they wish to use. Curry would be ideal suited to Leroy Hill's position, and considering Hill just got franchised, I can't see the Seahawks taking Curry.

Even if they felt he was a potential replacement for Peterson, I can't see them cutting a proven veteran and pro-bowler to pay a rookie $10m a year in his place.

Anonymous said...

I would love to see the top five shake out this way, but I really don't see it. Detroit's GM has stated that he believes in building your team around the trenches, (similar to Miami and Jake Long.)

Considering what we saw in the combine, and subsequent interviews, I'm of the opinion that Jason Smith is going to be the first guy off the board. He really outperformed Eugene Monroe in combine drills, (especially in the bench press) he'll be the first one taken.

I have to agree with you on having KC drafting Crabtree. I haven't ever thought that he'd last past them; It just makes too much sense. Now that KC has their guy in Cassel, they're going to try and give him every opportunity to be successful. Giving him those kind of weapons (Bowe, Gonzalez, Crabtree) would be certainly setting him up for success.

Taking all of that into consideration, I think that you have Smith at 1, Stafford at 2 (Rams getting their Bulger heir) Crabtree 3, and us getting into a war-room debate between Malcolm Jenkins and Eugene Monroe or praying that someone seriously has the hots for Aaron Curry and wants to do something foolish.

That aside, and assuming we stay put, Monroe is a Hawk.

BTW, love what you're doing here. You're doing great stuff, please keep going strong!


Rob Staton said...

Thanks for the kind words Joe. I'm glad you enjoy the blog and hope you'll keep visiting.

I firmly believe that the Lions will take Matt Stafford. I can see the argument that suggests they will 'build from the trenches' but Jim Schwartz said when he was appointed head coach - 'we need a franchise quarter back'. They have the 20th pick which gives them some flexibility. They could trade up from 20 for an Oher or an Andre Smith if they want O-line. They also have an early second round. They won't get a QB as good as Stafford that late in the draft.

Stafford has massive potential and upside. I don't think he will start much, if at all, in 2009. They will tread with caution. But they are a franchise in the process of a total rebuild. This will take years, so they need to start with the most important position. I will be surprised if they take one of Smith and Monroe, but this is the Detroit Lions. Would anyone be surprised if they took someone first overall nobody expected?

Aaron Weinberg said...

I'm not sure I see Crabtree getting past the Rams or Chiefs -- especially after Torry Holt is requesting to be released. I say good call on Smith but might not rule out Curry at five. To have three young LBs would be amazing for the future of our defense... but I'm not sure how much money Peterson is guaranteed for the next few years. It's unlikely, but anything is possible with Ruskell.

And I'm sure I don't need to tell you this, but this is the best Seahawks draft site around.

fountaindale said...

Would the Hawks consider moving to 3-4 alignment if Curry was available? Do we have the coaching expertise to support the 3-4?

Louis said...

Hmm...the Seahawks are currently in the "win now" mind set based on our recent moves, so that suggests that we would draft an impact player. QB is definately not immediate impact, knowing that Hasselbeck is our guy. As you said, Jason Smith is still developing and would likely not start. Therefore, some positions we might look into: RB, WR, DT, CB. There really is no really good CB that can go in the top 5, so Im pretty sure we can rule CB out of the mix. BJ Raji is at the top of the DT list, but he has character issues (Tim Ruskel does not like that) and was shut down in the Senior bowl when he played against good centers (such as Eric Woods). RB would be a huge reach at pick 4, as neither Wells or Moreno is worth that, in my opinion. Therefore, Crabtree is the only "impact" player that makes sense to be picked there, so i think that if Crabtree is still available when the Seahawks are on the clock, he will be in Seahawks blue next season. =D

on a different topic, I heard that we have just signed John Owens, a TE. Could u give us some background info on this guy?

Anonymous said...

If the top 3 falls that way I would fully expect a trade down with someone looking for Curry or Smith.

Anonymous said...

Hey Rob do u have a MSN or an AIM account so that we can add u and talk Seahawks with u? Cool, thanks

Rob Staton said...

Fountaindale - I would be surprised if the Seahawks switch to a 3-4. The current defense has been set up completely around the 4-3, I don't think Tatupu is a good ILB for a 3-4, and you'd have to play Peterson and Hill at OLB, again, not something I'd personally recommend. Teams like to give different looks on defense so if they took Curry it's quite possibly they could find a way to get him involved in certain situations, but with so many millions tied up at linebacker it'd be a surprise to see another added to the roster on $10m a year unless they were going to start from day one.

Louis - you are right when you say the Seahawks are in 'win now' mode. They know that at the start of a new era with Mora and coming off a 4-12 season they need to prove they are going in the right direction. Signing Houshmandzadeh was a sign of the team's thinking. Because of the money involved, getting an impact player has to be a priority. That's one of the main reasons I feel Crabtree would still be a very good option for the Seahawks. But if the draft falls this way, they have to look elsewhere and I'm struggling to find another impact player at that spot. They could backload Jason Smith's contract in order to minimise the cap hit now, with more benefits for when he becomes a starter. I'm sure the team would love to trade down a few spots and get someone like Knowshon Moreno at the right price, but as we know - that's not always easy in the top five picks.

Annonymous - I don't have MSN or AIM, but I will be holding some live forums on the blog as we get closer to the draft.

Rob Staton said...

Louis - regarding John Owens he is very much a blocking tight end (which doesn't suggest the team will re-sign Will Heller). He's not got great hands and won't be a reliable pass catcher. In a 7 year career he's caught 19 balls for 162 yards and 1 TD. He's more likely to appear in short yardage situations and red zone offense in two tight end sets with John Carlson.

Anonymous said...

Seahawks 2009 draft

My wish list

Round 1
Jason Smith, Crabtree, or Curry(Which one is available in that order)

Sean Smith CB/S Utah


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