Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Some thoughts on Crabtree & Tuesday links

I was fortunate enough to contact John McClain from the Houston Chronicle recently. John is one of my favourite journalists, you can catch up with his Chron.com blog and check out his thoughts on the Texans' draft plans via NFL.com.

Being based in Texas, I wanted to ask John about one thing in particular - Michael Crabtree. Opinion is so polarised on Crabtree amongst fans and experts alike. Some are put off by his injuries and speculated character issues, others are simply blown away by his stat sheet and eye catching performances for the Red Raiders.

"Crabtree's only problem is that he's a third-year sophomore, and not many senior receivers make an immediate impact, much less third-year sophomores. Every scout and coach I talk to loves the guy because of how hard he plays. He lacks great speed but makes up for it with his size, attitude and his get-the-ball-at-all-costs ability. He's a little immature at times, probably like we were at that age, but people who know him, play with him and are around him like and respect him. He'd be a great addition to any roster."
- John McClain, Houston Chronicle

Chad Reuter from NFL Draft Scout published an updated mock draft today. He has the Seahawks taking Crabtree in round one and Donald Brown in round two. "T.J. Houshmandzadeh was a nice signing, but he turns 32 years old in September and played across from Chad Ocho Cinco. Deion Branch started 11 and 8 games the past two seasons. Bobby Engram, who left as a free agent, led receivers with 489 yards. Still think WR isn't a need?" - Reuter

Rob Rang reports sources that suggest Matt Stafford impressed greatly in front of Detroit staff in a personal work out today. I contacted Rob this week to ask his opinion on what kind of interest the Seahawks might have in Knowshon Moreno. It's something we've discussed a lot recently on here. Rang really likes the Georgia running back, but isn't sure Seattle value him in the same way.

Mel Kiper and Todd McShay continue their weekly draft podcast series. On the agenda this week? The USC pro-day and an admittance of error on Kiper's behalf - he thinks he ranked Everette Brown badly. Interestingly, Kiper also thinks Duke Robinson (G, Oklahoma) has dropped to a 3rd-4th round grading.

Paul Burmeister talks to Charles Davis and Michael Lombardi regarding the wide receiver class in this year's draft. Davis has Crabtree top of his big board, so it's no surprise to see him listed as the best wide out. A noticeable absentee from the top five is Maryland's Darrius Heyward-Bey. It goes to show the relative strength of this positional class, only a year removed from a draft that saw zero first round picks in 2008.

Jennifer Allen looks at the influence USC quarter back Mark Sanchez may have on and off the field. It's the Trojans pro-day tomorrow, so expect a lot of attention focused on guys like Stafford and the three talented linebackers - Maualuga, Cushing and Matthews Jr.

Got a question? email - rob@seahawksdraftblog.com

Rob Rang's updated mock draft

Rob Rang (NFL Draft Scout) has published an updated mock draft for CBS Sportsline. It's interesting that in Rob's last three mock drafts he's settled on Aaron Curry (LB, Wake Forest) for the Seahawks. The biggest change to the mock this week sees the Kansas City Chiefs taking Brian Orakpo. His stock seems to be rising as the weeks go on and would offer Scott Pioli the outside rush he would like moving to a 3-4 defense. With Orakpo and Curry off the board, it forces the Cleveland Browns to consider Michael Crabtree.

"Through free agency and trades the Seahawks have put themselves in position to take the best player available. The team is clearly intrigued by Curry as it sent linebacker coach Zerick Rollins to Wake Forest for a private workout with the ACC star last week, and the Seahawks are flying him to their team headquarters in early April." - Rob Rang on the Curry pick

Meet Aaron Curry...

Monday, 30 March 2009

Draft theory: The hit list

With just under a month to go until the 2009 NFL draft, Tim Ruskell and the Seahawks front will start to get an idea as to which prospects they will target fourth overall. No decisions will have been made just yet - there are still key visits to be made with prospects and also pro-days to be attended (USC hold their event on April 1st).

But as we get closer to the draft the potential list of prospects viewed as viable first round options will decrease. Back in February Tim Ruskell discussed how the team will go about this:

"If you start out with a list of 15, by the time you’re meetings are over, that thing’s down to eight. And if you eliminate some of those guys on their intangibles or off the field, it can go to four or six. That’s the normal course." - Tim Ruskell, 02/19

With only three teams picking before the Seahawks they could settle on a 'hit list' of four prospects knowing that at least one will fall to the them when they're on the clock. It's perhaps unlikely Ruskell would filter any list down to this extent, especially with potential trade down scenarios in the offing and supposed meetings scheduled with prospects that may need a trade to justify selection.

However for the purpose of this article I'm going to narrow the search down to four prospects the Seahawks might zone in on. Four of the highest rated players in the 2009 NFL draft that could offer good value with Seattle's first round pick.

Click here to read the full article.

Matt Stafford, QB Georgia

The Seahawks have committed to Matt Hasselbeck for 2009, but with the team's starting quarter back approaching 34 years of age Tim Ruskell has admitted Seattle are 'in the zone' when it comes to looking for a younger signal caller. The Seahawks are hoping the 4-12 2008 campaign was merely a blip brought about by a laundry list of injuries. They may not have the opportunity to draft the highest rated QB in a draft class for some time and an investment in Stafford would avoid any akward problems when Hasselbeck does move on.

Of course such a move would come with a cost. Matt Ryan was taken 3rd overall in 2008 and signed a $72m ($34.75m) contract. It could also unsettle Hasselbeck in a season where the Seahawks hope to bounce back as NFC West challengers. The team would hope to avoid any quarter back controversy, but it may be unavoidable with Seneca Wallace also unlikely to be impressed with the investment in an expensive young QB.

They may have to live with it though. The Seahawks can't afford to avoid 'stepping on toes' with the long term future at the most important position in football. Stafford's cap hit alongside Matt Hasselbeck's would still likely only equate to that which Indianapolis pay Peyton Manning. Although not a direct comparison with one of the NFL star entities, the Seahawks could justify a similar hit allowing them to compete now with Hasselbeck and develop Stafford in the background. If he gets passed Detroit with the first pick, he has to be on Seattle's hit list.

Jason Smith, OT Baylor

When Greg Knapp was officially announced as the team's new offensive coordinator, he gave some insight into what schemes the Seahawks will use under his leadership. One of the most notable was a zone blocking scheme, similar to the one seen (with some success) in Denver recently. With Mike Solari taking control of the offensive line for a second year, expectations are high that Seattle can find greater consistency in the trenches.

Another interesting suggestion from Knapp was that the running game would get a great emphasis than previous years. This can be exaggerated. Mike Holmgren regularly used a 60-40 split when it came to a pass-run offense. Knapp is likely to use a 50-50 split. Nevertheless, the Seahawks want to find balance and develop the running game.

One way to do that would be to find a dominant offensive lineman who has the skills to fit perfectly into a zone blocking scheme, whilst having that nasty streak and determination to progress to the second level and attack linebackers. Jason Smith fits the bill perfectly. He's a little raw having played predominantly in a spread offense at Baylor and he'll need some time to adjust to the pro-game and three point stance. However, he has tremendous upside. Although not as polished as Eugene Monroe, he has a superior ceiling and the frame to add further bulk. Like Stafford, it would be an investment in the future for when an ageing veteran (in this case, Walter Jones) calls it a day. Smith is unlikely to make it passed St Louis because the Rams want to get superior run blocking like Seattle. If he does make it to four, he has to be on the Seahawk's hit list.

Michael Crabtree, WR Texas Tech

Few prospects have polarised opinion as much as Crabtree this off season. Some people look at his stats (231 catches, 3127 yards, 41 TD's) and say they aren't concerned about his injuries or lack of a work out. Others are concerned about the way Crabtree conducted himself at the combine, worry about the severity of recent ankle and metatarsal injuries and speculated 'character' red flags.

It's unclear how the Seahawks view Crabtree specifically. He was one of the prospects who the Seahawks entertained at the combine and how the Texas Tech receiver came across in that meeting may have impacted on the team's decision. One thing that cannot be denied is Crabtree's talent. Seattle struggled at receiver in 2008 and despite the addition of T.J. Houshmandzadeh in free agency, a playmaking catcher could still be the team's greatest need. With Crabtree on board, the 'Hawks could have one of the better passing games in the NFC, which in turn could draw pressure away from the offensive line and open up the running game.

Crabtree is ranked the 2nd best overall prospect by Mel Kiper, Mike Mayock and NFL Draft Scout. He is top of Charles Davis' big board. If Seattle want to maximise value with the fourth overall pick, Crabtree could be the best player available when they select. As long as any character reservations can be cast aside, Crabtree still makes sense for a Seahawks offense looking for a new identity in 2009.

Aaron Curry, LB Wake Forest

When the Seahawks traded away Julian Peterson for Cory Redding and a 5th round pick, they opened up a hole at linebacker. It may not necessarily be a hole they wish to fill with a $60m rookie, but they certainly have that option. Curry is the kind of prospect we've expected Tim Ruskell to draft in his time with the Seahawks.

A four year starter, Curry leads by example on the field and has a mature personality off it. His stat sheet doesn't scream out at you (only 9 sacks in four years) but it can be deceiving. A lot of his reps were taken deep from the line of scrimmage and he wasn't asked to do a lot of pass rush. If you want indications for his playmaking ability, check out his four interceptions (three for TD's) in 2007 and impressive 226 return yardage.

His potential influence as a playmaker for Seattle could be a position of debate. With Lofa Tatupu soaking up tackles through the middle and Leroy Hill remaining with the team, there are only so many plays to go round. For a team like Kansas City or Cleveland, Curry would have to set the tone and could achieve a rookie season similar to Patrick Willis or Jared Mayo. If the Seahawks think Curry is worth adding, he will almost certainly be part of a potential four prospect hit list.

Rated by many as the 'safest' pick in the draft, Curry is top of Mel Kiper, Todd McShay, Mike Mayock and NFL Draft Scout's big board's. He is also Rob Rang's pick for Seattle in his most recent mock draft.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Chris Wells to visit with Seahawks

Aaron Wilson from Pro Football Talk is today reporting that Ohio State running back Chris Wells will visit with the Seattle Seahawks in the upcoming weeks.

"Ohio State star running back Chris 'Beanie' Wells is scheduled to visit multiple NFL teams over the next few weeks, according to a league source. Among the visits Wells currently has planned: the Denver Broncos, Cincinnati Bengals, Arizona Cardinals, San Diego Chargers and the Seattle Seahawks." - Aaron Wilson

The strength of the source is unclear but with reports this week that Seattle are also meeting with Kansas State quarter back Josh Freeman, the Seahawks are clearly making sure no stone is left unturned. Yesterday, Charley Casserly predicted Seattle would draft Beanie Wells with the fourth overall pick.

Saturday links

Chris Sullivan at Seahawk Addicts has published a mock draft. He thinks Seattle will take Michael Crabtree, with Matt Stafford going first overall to the Detroit Lions. Sullivan's first nine picks are the same as my current mock draft - great minds etc.

Walter Cherepinsky updated his mock draft today. "The Seahawks spent a lot of money on T.J. Houshmandzadeh, who turns 32 in September. They wouldn't have made that signing if they didn't think they could win right now. They clearly know that their window is closing; Hasselbeck, Houshmandzadeh and Walter Jones have only a few highly productive seasons remaining. With that in mind, Seattle will be looking for a player to help them immediately. Crabtree provides that sort of upside over Monroe." - Cherepinsky

Matt McGuire wonders why we haven't seen a mock draft from Mike Mayock. "He is one of the two best NFL Draft analysts in the world along with Mel Kiper. So, where is HIS mock draft? Many people from NFL.com and the NFL Network have written mock drafts, yet none of them are true NFL Draft analysts. Jamie Dukes, Steve Wyche and Pat Kirwan are on this list. Why have they written mock drafts, yet arguably the most famous football analyst on the NFL Network, Mike Mayock, has put out nothing in terms of a mock yet?" - McGuire

Rob Rang reports on the Northern Illinois pro-day where Larry English was performing for scouts. He's projected as more of an OLB in a 3-4, which is probably why the Seahawks weren't listed amongst a number of team's present. "English has the tools to warrant consideration late in the first round, but this year's unique collection of outside linebackers and hybrid defensive ends likely to make the transition to the OLB position could push him into the mid second range." - Rang

"Hasselbeck says don't draft Stafford". That would be a great headline right? Of course we're talking about Tim Hasselbeck, younger brother of Matt. He says team's should avoid the Georgia prospect with the higher picks. I've posted the video below:

Friday, 27 March 2009

Charley Casserly on OT's Monroe & Smith

On March 4th, Charley Casserly made the bold statement that Eugene Monroe and Jason Smith were "not true top 10 tackles". Today he qualifies his reasoning a little further by breaking down the highly rated offensive tackle class of 2009.

"I think the guys got real good technique in his pass protection, so I think he's a very good pass blocker. I think he can come in and play right now. I don't think he has as an upside though, I think what you see is what you get which is pretty good for a left tackle pass pro. I think he's not as physical on the running game as you like and some people have some serious questions about his knee and that might drop him a little."
- Casserly on Eugene Monroe

"I think his best asset is his pass blocking, his feet and his change of direction. My questions on him are this - he's not a real big guy. His body is really tight to be about a 305-309lbs guy. The other thing about him is I polled nineteen teams in the fall. The average grade was a 1/2. History tells me that you don't really see guys jumping that far that fast. That bothers me a little bit."
- Casserly on Jason Smith

In other news, Pat Kirwan (Senior Analyst, NFL.com) has published the fifth incarnation of his mock draft. Once again he has the Seahawks taking Georgia QB Matt Stafford, although he's added a second round choice for good measure. Seattle passes on Alex Mack and William Beatty to take Darrius Butler (CB, Connecticut).

Josh Freeman to meet with Seahawks

Adam Caplan of ScoutNFLNetwork.com is reporting that Josh Freeman (QB, Kansas State) has a visit scheduled with the Seattle Seahawks. Tim Ruskell admitted recently that the team is 'in the zone' with regard to drafting a younger quarter back, so it's not surprising they plan to meet with the 6'5", 248 lbs Freeman.

With the fourth pick Seattle take... Chris Wells?

Charley Casserly revealed his mock draft on the NFL Network today with a surprise at fourth overall. For those of you not aware of who Casserly's credentials, he's the former Houston Texans GM credited with having a big say in the team's decision to draft Mario Williams over Reggie Bush.

Earlier this week we looked at the indecision amongst experts when it comes to predicting Seattle's choice in the first round. In a sample of six pundits, each had a different selection with the fourth pick. Add another name to the list - Chris 'Beanie' Wells (RB, Ohio State).

"They would have liked to have Aaron Curry to fill a need at outside linebacker but guess what, they want an impact player. That's what Jim Mora told me. He wants to get the running game going. It's Chris Wells in a shade over Michael Crabtree, the wide receiver from Texas Tech." - Charley Casserly, NFL.com

We've been debating a lot recently about the possible interest Seattle have in Knowshon Moreno. The same issues that make that move difficult stand true with Wells - it'd be a big investment (approx. $60m) for a prospect to play in a running back by committee system. However, call this one a hunch - both running backs could be getting more attention that most people think.

Draft theory: three scenarios - who do you take?

Strangely, as we get closer to April 25th it's becoming increasingly difficult to predict who the Seahawks will take with the fourth overall pick. This is in large part due to the work of Tim Ruskell and his front office in free agency. By filling as many holes as possible - it leaves the Seahawks open to take the best player on their board irrespective of need. Deciding who will be that player will depend who has gone before Seattle's on the clock. Today we'll look at three different scenarios that could affect who the Seahawks take.

Scenario One

1. Detroit Lions - Jason Smith OT
2. St Louis Rams - Eugene Monroe OT
3. Kansas City Chiefs - Aaron Curry LB

Over the last seven days reports have heated up which suggest the Lions will pass on Matt Stafford to take an offensive tackle - either Jason Smith or Eugene Monroe. Although such reports are premature (Stafford will conduct a private with Detroit on March 31st) it's certainly remains a possibility.

In this scenario the Seahawks would have seen the top two offensive tackles off the board and the best defensive prospect. If they kept the fourth pick and were unable to make a trade, they would have to decide between the merits of drafting an eventual successor to Matt Hasselbeck (Stafford) or selecting a more immediate prospect such as Michael Crabtree or Brian Orakpo.

Last year, Atlanta selected Matt Ryan third overall and paid him a handsome $72m ($34.75m guaranteed) over six years. Stafford would likely command a similar contract, possibly higher. It would be a huge investment for the Seahawks in their future post-Hasselbeck.

But let's look at it another way. Hasselbeck's cap hit in 2009 is approximately $9-10m. Peyton Manning signed a contract in 2004 that will pay him $14m in '09 and $15.8m in '10. Should the Seahawks inherit Stafford and his large contract, they could possibly backload it so that Seattle would be paying similar amounts to keep both Hasselbeck and Stafford on the roster over the next two years. Of course - Manning is the current NFL MVP and a bonafide star. But such is the importance of the quarter back position, investing a similar amount to have Hasselbeck starting now with Stafford the man for the future would not be a complete extravagance for a team eyeing the future. If there's one position you can justify this investment - it's quarter back.

Tim Ruskell was present in person at the Georgia pro-day recently and has taken a quarter back (David Greene) from the school previously. Team's often look to draft a new quarter back when a head coach begins his reign (in this case, Jim Mora). It wouldn't be a stretch to theorise that Ruskell would take Stafford should he remain available with the fourth pick.

Scenario One... the Seattle Seahawks select Matt Stafford

Scenario Two

1 Detroit Lions - Matt Stafford QB
2 St Louis Rams - Jason Smith OT
3 Kansas City Chiefs - Eugene Monroe OT

This is a situation that has started to garner greater attention. Rob Rang's most recent mock drafts have the board falling this way heading into Seattle's choice. Despite reports to the contrary this week, I still believe Detroit will take Matt Stafford first overall. They need a franchise quarter back and essentially I fell they will decide Stafford is their man. This theory would take him out of contention for the Seahawks.

Kansas City in this scenario take Eugene Monroe. A few weeks ago I would have thought this move unlikely. The Chiefs drafted Branden Albert 15th overall last year to fill the vacant spot at left tackle. However, that was an old regime and there's a new general manager and head coach in town. If they are prepared to switch to a 3-4 defense (essentially minimising the effect of Glenn Dorsey - taken 5th overall) they will have no qualms about taking a replacement for Albert. Make no mistake, if the Chiefs rate Monroe highly enough they will take him. Protecting Matt Cassel could be a priority for Scott Pioli in his first year with the franchise.

Seattle are left to contemplate taking Aaron Curry (as Rob Rang predicts) or again looking at someone such as Michael Crabtree or Brian Orakpo. This could be a difficult call. No doubt that Tim Ruskell likes low risk picks especially with the kind of money involved. Aaron Curry isn't the most vibrant personality but he's also the very definition of a dedicated professional. He won't cause any problems in the dressing room, he won't get into trouble. Having traded Julian Peterson to Detroit, there's also room should the Seahawks wish to take Curry fourth overall.

Having said that, you have to wonder how much influence Curry could have for Seattle. He would command a contract of around $60m, essentially making the linebacker position incredibly expensive again (a situation the team wanted to avoid when they traded Peterson). In a team like Kansas City, St Louis or Cleveland Curry would be the dominant leader on defense - possibly leading to a Patrick Willis/Jared Mayo type rookie season. In Seattle, there would only be so many tackles to go around. Lofa Tatupu absorbs a lot of them at middle linebacker and Leroy Hill is expected to have a good year under the franchise tag. Having only achieved 9 sacks in four years at Wake Forest (albeit mainly playing in a role which restricted his ability to rush) you could ask legitimate questions about whether Curry would be enough of a difference maker to justify the investment.

For this scenario however we will place him directly in Seattle. As the top rated prospect on many draft boards including Mel Kiper and Mike Mayock, the Seahawks might find it difficult to pass on the number one ranked prospect. As Rob Rang suggests, "the Seahawks could plug Curry in immediately and, considering they'd be getting the player many believe is the draft's top talent at the fourth pick, the team would be getting optimum value."

Scenario Two... the Seahawks select Aaron Curry

Scenario Three

1 Detroit Lions - Matt Stafford QB
2 St Louis Rams - Jason Smith OT
3 Kansas City Chiefs - Aaron Curry LB

This is the situation I'm currently predicting in my latest mock draft. In this situation, the Rams again take Smith. It's happened in every scenario so far and although I'm sure Steve Spagnuolo would love to have a chance to bring in a defensive prospect like Curry, I feel replacing Orlando Pace has to be a priority. If they want to run the ball with greater emphasis and create a platform for Steven Jackson, taking Jason Smith makes too much sense. He's got the nasty streak and the desire to get to the second level and attack linebackers. He could be a vital to any running game in St Louis.

Kansas City could easily look at Eugene Monroe to protect Cassel. However, they also need someone to set the tone on defense. Curry would play inside linebacker in Kansas City. If they feel confident enough to go with Branden Albert at left tackle, then Curry makes some sense.

This would leave Seattle looking at a situation with Eugene Monroe, Michael Crabtree and Brian Orakpo still on the board. Many experts, pundits and bloggers expect the Seahawks to take Eugene Monroe in this situation. I disagree. Having watched tape of Monroe I have serious concerns about the consistency of his effort and desire to really dominate. Too often he's seen blocking his man out of a game and calling it a play. This won't cut the mustard in a zone blocking scheme, especially one which wishes to show greater emphasis towards the run.

Nevertheless, he can be superb in pass protection. To a team looking for that instant protection (KC - Cassel, CIN - Palmer) he would offer tremendous value in a man blocking scheme. Seattle however, would be investing in the long term replacement for Walter Jones. Benching Monroe indefinitely offers little reward for a $60m contract. His unwillingness to progress to the second level makes a temporary switch to guard unlikely, so can the Seahawks justify this pick? With Sean Locklear signed to what could be described as a 'left tackles' contract and Ray Willis re-signed for depth, I do not expect the Seahawks to take Monroe here.

That would leave Crabtree and Orakpo. Peter King from SI.com reported rumours of a potential move towards Orakpo at the owners meeting. However, I think in this situation the team would draft Michael Crabtree. The signs in free agency have been towards a 'win-now' mentality. How else can you justify spending a large contract on a soon-to-be 32 year old receiver? Rookie receivers generally take time to adjust to the NFL. However, give Crabtree some simple routes to get him on the field and watch teams struggle to cover him alongside Houshmandzadeh, Carlson and one of Burleson or Branch.

Seattle's passing game would be transformed from one of the worst to one of the best in the space of one off season. By taking Crabtree, still ranked the best overall prospect by NFL.com's Charles Davis, the team would be seriously upgrading what became a stagnant offense in 2008. The attention such a receiving corp would demand could also draw pressure away from the offensive line and open up the running game.

Some question marks have been asked of Crabtree's character recently. However, as Danny O'Neil testified in a Fox Sports feature yesterday - sometimes your most recent judgement can cloud the actual facts. When you go back and watch footage of Crabtree and you listen to his interviews from 2008, fears can certainly be allayed.

Scenario Three... the Seattle Seahawks select Michael Crabtree

Final Thoughts

Obviously these are only theories based on my own opinion. We could talk through a number of other possibilities, for example a scenario simply where Jason Smith isn't going to St Louis. We could also discuss the possibilities of trading down - however unlikely or not that may be. The difficulty in trying to judge who Seattle will take isn't likely to get any easier until April 25th. Simply put, even the team may not know who they are going to choose until they have seen who Kansas City have selected with the third overall pick.

Kiper vs McShay: Round Three

A month ago ESPN's Mel Kiper and Todd McShay had a couple of pretty heated debates about Georgia quarter back Matt Stafford. Well, it all kicked off again today when Mel and Todd talked about the 'signability' issue with the first overall pick. Although it never gets to the explosive level of round two, it's certainly entertaining.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Seahawks on the clock...

Danny O'Neil from the Seattle Times recorded this segment for Fox Sports' 'on the clock' series. The usual topics are covered - Crabtree, Monroe/Smith and the future at quarter back. The main thing we want to know (and the reason we watch these clips) is the pick at the end. So who does Danny have the 'Hawks taking?

Seahawks work out linebacker Aaron Curry

Eric Williams from the TNT's Seahawks Insider is reporting that Seattle held a private workout with Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry today.

"The Seattle Seahawks put linebacker Aaron Curry through a private workout today at Wake Forest's athletic facility, according to Curry's agent Andy Ross. Curry would fill a need for Seattle, replacing Pro Bowler Julian Peterson in Seattle's 4-3 defensive front." - Eric Williams

Curry was ranked top of Mike Mayock's big board and Mel Kiper similarly rated him the number one prospect this week. As Williams points out in his report, Rob Rang from NFL Draft Scout & CBS Sportsline has Curry going to Seattle in his latest mock draft.

Revisiting the wildcard picks

On February 7th I wrote an article called the wildcard picks where we discussed who could be a surprise choice for the Seahawks fourth overall. Nearly two months on, today I'll revisit the three prospects we talked about to see how their stock has changed since the combine and pro-day work outs. We'll also predict whether they are more or less likely to be taken in the first round by Seattle.

Jason Smith, OT Baylor

A lot has changed for Smith since we originally entertained the thought of him being Seattle's choice with the fourth pick. It seems strange today that he was ever considered a 'wildcard' choice. Back in February he was getting consideration as a top ten pick - I had him going eighth overall to Jacksonville in my first mock draft of 2009. His stock has risen dramatically since then with some people suggesting he could be Detroit's choice first overall and others suggesting he won't get passed St Louis with the second pick. It's been quite a few weeks for the Baylor left tackle. Question marks about his ability to play in a pro-styke offense (he played in a spread with the Bears) have all but rescinded and he impressed in work outs and interviews during the combine. Not so much a 'wildcard' these days as demanding consideration should he fall to the 'Hawks.

More or less likely to end up in Seattle?

It depends how you look at it. You argue 'less likely' because he seems an almost certain lock for the top three picks, taking the choice away from Tim Ruskell and his front office. If he does get passed Detroit, St Louis and Kansas City - he's almost certainly 'more' likely to end up in Seattle. He's a good fit in their soon-to-be implemented zone blocking scheme and would be a long term fixture on the offensive line.

Everette Brown, DE Florida State

Brown was my pick to set the combine alight and shoot up the draft board. It never really materialised though - he ran slower than an injured Brian Orakpo (Brown - 4.73, Orakpo - 4.70). The Texas prospect was also bigger, benched 225lbs five more times than Brown and posted a 39.5 vertical (compared to Browns 31.5). I still think Brown is the best pure pass rusher in this draft class, but he won't go before Brian Orakpo. Both prospects have been touted as potentially better fits at 3-4 outside linebacker and Brown could be drafted for that role (Green Bay and Denver are potential destinations). Florida State defensive ends haven't had the best success in the NFL previously and this could also make teams wary of the latest Seminoles DE.

More or less likely to end up in Seattle?

Less likely. Orakpo outperformed his rival at the combine despite carrying an injury and will be the first defensive end taken in the 2009 draft. Peter King from SI.com reported this week rumours that the Texas prospect could go to the Seahawks fourth overall. Other reports say the Browns are enamoured with his talents so he won't fall passed the 5th pick. The Seahawks have been active to improve their defensive line, signing Colin Cole and trading for Cory Redding. Taking a lineman with the fourth overall pick may be unlikely at all, let alone Brown being taken this high.

Knowshon Moreno, RB Georgia

Moreno has long been an intriguing prospect and difficult to judge. He's rated number seven on Mike Mayock's draft board and posted impressive numbers in two years at Georgia (3o TD's, 2736 yards). He hasn't caught the eye in work outs though, performing well in drills but only registering times of around 4.60 in the forty at the combine and Bulldog's pro-day. Some say his talent outweighs the times, others have him plummeting down the mocks. However, as we reported recently the Seahawks have been keeping a close eye on Moreno. Tim Ruskell values on the field production and talent over an impressive work out or physical statistics and is one general manager not afraid to pull the trigger on a prospect he rates highly. If reports are true that Seattle is looking for an offensive playmaker early in the draft, Moreno could be a greater possibility than some think.

More or less likely to end up in Seattle?

Moreno is the one remaining true 'wildcard' pick for the Seahawks out of the three prospects mentioned. I have no doubts that had Seattle been picking in the 10-20 range instead of fourth overall, they would have been all over this pick. So the question is - can they justify taking him fourth overall? Probably not. Adding a $60m running back to play as part of a three pronged attack involving Julius Jones and T.J. Duckett could be too expensive. If Seattle wants to draft Moreno, they may have to find a way to trade down even if it means giving up the fourth pick for a bargain price.

Thursday links

Michael Lombardi from the National Football Post has published a new mock draft. He has the Seahawks taking Jason Smith (OT, Baylor). He has Michael Crabtree falling to the 13th pick (Washington) with St. Louis passing on the top two offensive tackles to take Aaron Curry.

Mel Kiper has updated his 'top 25' big board. There's little change at the top, with Aaron Curry ranked the number one prospect and Michael Crabtree in second place. Other worthwhile mentions - Matt Stafford (3rd), Jason Smith (4th) and Eugene Monroe (9th).

The NFL Network has news of Connecticut's and Texas' pro days. There were some highly rated prospects on show, including UConn's Donald Brown, Darrius Butler and William Beatty. Representing Texas - Brian Orakpo.

Matt McGuire updates his mock draft. He still thinks the Seahawks take Michael Crabtree in round one and LeSean McCoy (RB, Pitt) in the second. "Remember Houshmandzadeh is a 31-year-old veteran and Deion Branch can't seem to stay healthy, so they might still want a young play-maker at that position." - McGuire.

Kyle Rota publishes scouting reports for McCoy and his Pittsburgh teammate Scott McKillop (ILB). On McCoy: "The potential to be a very good ball carrier is there, but McCoy probably needs a year before he is ready for a starting role and even then I question his ability to be a 3 down back." - Rota.

Eric Williams thinks the Seahawks need a speed back and might not consider Knowshon Moreno. I agree that the team could use some speed, we saw Chris Johnson's influence on the Tennessee offense in 2008. But I disagree Seattle wouldn't show interest in Moreno. As I reported last week, the team were keeping a watchful eye on the Georgia playmaker. He's a Tim Ruskell prospect down to a tee - and could be a wildcard choice for the Seahawks.

Todd McShay ponders a mock draft where Matt Stafford isn't taken first overall by the Detroit. So where does the Georgia quarter back end up? He thinks Seattle. I've posted the video below:

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Seahawks eyeing Norfolk State CB?

Ed Thompson from Scout.com is reporting that the Seahawks are showing interest in Norfolk State corner back Don Carey. The 5'11", 192lbs defensive back worked out for Seattle and Miami recently, but the Seahawks are now bringing him to the North West for another viewing.

"Norfolk State cornerback Don Carey told Scout.com that the Seattle Seahawks have extended an invitation to him for an official visit. Carey will visit the Seahawks' coaches and tour their facilities on April 14–15. The Dolphins had already asked the four-year starter to visit them on April 7, but Carey just got the good news from the Seahawks on Wednesday." - Ed Thompson

Carey was credited with 42 tackles in his senior year, with an impressive five interceptions. At the combine he was clocked at 4.54 in the 40 yard dash. Walterfootball.com has him listed at 43 in their corner back rankings with an 'undrafted' rating.

Wednesday links

I'm going to be away most of Wednesday and into early Thursday, but will try and update the blog if anything big breaks.

Todd McShay and Mel Kiper publish their latest draft podcast. The first topic of discussion? Knowshon Moreno. We talked in depth earlier this week about Tim Ruskell keeping a close eye on the Georgia running back. I still think the Seahawks will have Moreno near the top of their draft board, whether or not they can justify taking him fourth overall or find a way to move down is the burning question. The pair also talk about the guys they think are slightly over rated. Kiper names Eugene Monroe, McShay goes with Robert Ayers.

Scout.com have published a first round mock draft using their scouting network. The Seahawks take Eugene Monroe with the fourth overall pick. "The team will be guided by Walter Jones' age and recent microfracture surgery, and they'll take Virginia tackle Eugene Monroe with the fourth pick." - Unspecified, Scout.com

The NFL Network speak to Matt Hayes from the Sporting News and their own draft guru Mike Mayock to discuss prospects that are 'on the bubble'. Roughly translated, that means guys expected to go in round two that get taken in the first. The names mentioned? Max Unger (C, Oregon), Donald Brown (RB, Connecticut) and Shawn Nelson (TE, Southern Miss). Mayock adds Louis Delmas (S, Western Michigan) to the list as the drafts top rated safety.

Mike Mayock and Charley Casserly return to talk about the top defensive tackles in this year's draft class. Mayock says it's a lean group, with few top end talents. It's hard to argue, outside of Mayock's top five there isn't a great deal to work with. B.J. Raji seems to be a lock for the top ten, with Peria Jerry and Evander Hood potential first rounders.

Donald Brown and Darrius Butler from Connecticut speak to ESPN about the upcoming draft.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Tuesday links

Chad Retuer has published a new three round mock draft for CBS Sportsline. He keeps Jason Smith (OT, Baylor) at number four going to Seattle. There's a surprise in round two with Clay Matthews Jr. (LB, USC) falling to the Seahawks and Darcel McBath (S, Texas Tech) arriving in round three.

Walter Cherepinsky
has also updated his latest mock draft. He still thinks Seattle will take Michael Crabtree (WR, Texas Tech) with the fourth pick. Patrick Chung (S, Oregon) is picked up in round two with Troy Kropog (OT, Tulane) the third round choice.

Chris Sullivan looks at Utah defensive back Sean Smith. Sullivan reports he's scheduled for a visit with the Seahawks this week, as is Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry. "The first thing that jumps out at you about Sean Smith is that he's gigantic. Standing at 6'3"+ he would instantly please all those Ruskell critics who are willing to be pleased" - Chris Sullivan.

Steve Wyche reports from the Wake Forest pro-day for the NFL Network. It's another chance for Aaron Curry to impress scouts ahead of April 25th. Corner back Alphonso Smith was also hoping to impress after getting mixed reviews at the combine. I spoke to a Patriots fan last week who is hoping New England take him in round one.

Mike Mayock lists his top five outside linebacker prospects. Curry is the obvious choice at number one, but interestingly Mayock has Brian Orakpo listed at number two. Peter King linked Orakpo to Seattle yesterday, but they'd have to be sold on his ability to be an elite 4-3 defensive end.

Monday, 23 March 2009

One month to go... and still no clues

By tomorrow, we'll be officially 32 days (one month) away from the 2009 NFL Draft. Much has been debated since the close of the Seahawks latest 4-12 season which gave them the fourth overall pick. But are we any closer to finding out who Tim Ruskell and the front office are likely to select? Convincingly, no.

I took a sample of twenty mock drafts using Walterfootball.com's database. I found the following results:

75% thought Matt Stafford would go first overall to Detroit
65% thought Jason Smith would go second overall to St Louis
90% thought Aaron Curry would go third to Kansas City

A consensus opinion has formed about the first three picks. So what about the Seahawks and the fourth choice?

To read the full article click here.

45% said the Seahawks will take Eugene Monroe.
20% thought Michael Crabtree and 15% Jason Smith.
B.J. Raji, Matt Stafford, Everette Brown and Brian Orakpo all received 5%.

It appears opinion is a little less confident on the direction the Seahawks will go. It's no surprise, Tim Ruskell has worked hard in free agency to fill obvious needs leaving the Seahawks in position to take the best player available. Before the signing of T.J. Houshmandzadeh a similar sample could easily have shown 90-100% in favour of Michael Crabtree. A lot has changed.

The fact 60% think Seattle will take an offensive tackle shows the shift in opinion. Without a high profile addition to the offensive line during free agency, many still consider a lineman in the first round a possibility. So can we assume this is how the team will draft?

I wouldn't make that assumption. For starters, there's no guarantee Jason Smith and Eugene Monroe will even be there with the fourth pick. On the other hand, the Seahawks invested heavily in Sean Locklear with incentives to play left tackle. With Ray Willis re-signed in free agency, the team may feel they have sufficient depth in case Walter Jones fails to recover sufficiently from microfracture surgery. It could certainly be enough to make them think twice about adding a $60m insurance policy.

So what do the experts and high profile pundits think?

Rob Rang, NFL Draft Scout & CBS Sportsline
Aaron Curry: Trading OLB Julian Peterson creates a gaping hole at the strong-side position in Seattle's defense. The Seahawks could plug Curry in immediately and, considering they'd be getting the player many believe is the draft's top talent at the fourth pick, the team would be getting optimum value.

Chad Reuter, NFL Draft Scout & CBS Sportsline
Jason Smith: Walter Jones' age and injury situation, as well as the loss of versatile Pork Chop Womack, makes left tackle a priority need for the Seahawks.

Steve Wyche, NFL.com
Michael Crabtree: The Seahawks supposedly are looking for a "playmaker" who can stretch the field. They can get that with Crabtree here or trade down and take a deep-ball threat, like Hakeem Nicks, between picks 20 and 32. They possess the ideal trade position. They also could go with Virginia offensive tackle Eugene Monroe.

Pat Kirwan, NFL.com
Matt Stafford: Players under consideration include Brian Orakpo and Aaron Curry. Seattle has needs beyond a future quarterback and it is always hard to pass up those needs to look down the road, but the Seahawks may have Stafford fall in their lap. If they pass, there's no guarantee they see a quarterback like him again in the next few years when they select. Trading for Cory Redding resolves the defensive line issue, but opened up an issue at linebacker.

Charles Davis, NFL.com
Eugene Monroe: Seattle might go DL here (B.J. Raji), but keeping Matt Hasselbeck upright is a priority.

Peter King, SI.com
Brian Orakpo: I think there's no consensus on the first round in the draft, with the draft 33 days away. But the lobby guesswork after a long Sunday of pigeonholing NFL people and agents leaves this top five: Detroit, Georgia quarterback Stafford; St. Louis, Baylor tackle Jason Smith; Kansas City, Virginia tackle Eugene Monroe; Seattle, Texas defensive end Brian Orakpo; Cleveland, Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry.

Six different opinions, all with Seattle taking a different prospect. What can we conclude from this? Probably that as far as the Seahawks are concerned, we're none the wiser as to which direction they'll go in the first round. All of the views above offer perfectly plausible justifications. I'd hazard a guess that on the eve of April 25th we'll still be guessing who goes fourth overall.

Rob Rang updated mock draft

Rob Rang updated his mock draft today with a handful of changes. He still predicts the Seahawks will take Aaron Curry (LB, Wake Forest). Reports over the weekend had the Detroit Lions 'deciding' on Jason Smith with the number one pick. These are clearly premature and may even be a bargaining tool in any future negotiations with Matt Stafford. The Lions will privately work out Stafford on March 31st and any decision is unlikely before then. Rang still believes the Georgia QB is destined to go first overall.

"Stafford's strong showing at Georgia's pro day only added to the likelihood that he'll be the Lions' choice. OTs Jason Smith and Eugene Monroe remain possibilities - insiders suggest a tackle may even be the favorite at this point - but ultimately, the Lions will revert back to the premise most NFL teams are built around - that to win consistently, a franchise quarterback has to be found."
- Rob Rang, NFL Draft Scout & CBS Sportsline

Brian Orakpo for Seattle?

Peter King from Sports Illustrated reported some interesting thought's this week in his latest 'Monday Morning QB' article. He spent Sunday speaking to scouts and NFL representatives at the owners meeting in Dana Point, California. His predictions on how the top five of the draft could pan out?

"I think there's no consensus on the first round in the draft, with the draft 33 days away. But the lobby guesswork after a long Sunday of pigeonholing NFL people and agents leaves this top five: Detroit, Georgia quarterback Stafford; St. Louis, Baylor tackle Jason Smith; Kansas City, Virginia tackle Eugene Monroe; Seattle, Texas defensive end Brian Orakpo; Cleveland, Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry."
- Peter King, SI.com

It's interesting, because Orakpo's isn't a name we've seen linked with Seattle very often. Tim Ruskell clearly values defensive lineman and he's made efforts to improve Seattle's front by adding Colin Cole and Cory Redding recently. The team could still use a better outside rush with Patrick Kerney in his thirties and spending most of 2008 on injured reserve. Having said that, the team invested a first round pick in Lawrence Jackson recently and haven't given up on Darryl Tapp or Baraka Atkins.

Orakpo is the four year starter, high motor prospect that Tim Ruskell likes. However, I am sceptical about his ability to play as an elite 4-3 defensive end. He hasn't got the elite speed of a Gaines Adams (4th overall 2007, Tampa Bay) and might struggle to beat his man round the edge. A lot of his 11 sacks as a senior came ploughing through the middle. Personally I think he has more value playing as an OLB in a 3-4. His size ( 260lbs, 6'3") is almost identical to Terrell Suggs and he could have a similar impact in the NFL.

King's report gives food for thought though and throws another name into the mix with just over a month to go until the 2009 draft. There were also some other interesting opinions...

King on the Lions' 'decision' to take Jason Smith 1st overall (as reported, perhaps prematurely here):

"I think the Lions won't really know what they want to do with the first pick in the draft until March 31, or later. That's the date the Lions will go, en masse, to Athens, Ga., to work out Matthew Stafford. In Stafford's carefully orchestrated 19-minute throwing session for coaches Thursday ("This wasn't real football,'' Stafford said of the session, conducted in shorts, T-shirts, no pads and no defense), he displayed a strong deep arm and good touch on intermediate throws. But when the Lions work him out, they'll have him throw their routes, with their coaches calling the shots."
- Peter King

On Aaron Curry's place in the draft and why he might not go as high as expected:

"I think you look at that and say, "Aaron Curry fifth? I thought he might go to Detroit first.'' Well, he might. But here's the question you ask yourself with Curry: Do you want to take a linebacker who doesn't sack the quarterback first overall and hand him $34 million? Can you justify that financial outlay for a three-down linebacker, but a linebacker who doesn't rush well, a linebacker who averaged one sack for every 17 quarters of college football he played?"
- Peter King

Seahawks to meet with Mark Sanchez

Ed Thompson from Scout.com is reporting that the Seahawks will meet with Mark Sanchez on the eve of his pro-day at USC. Thanks to Michael Steffes at Seahawk Addicts for the link. For more on Sanchez, check out the video below courtesy of ESPN.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Draft theory: Seahawks eyeing Moreno?

It was widely reported that the Seahawks had a strong presence at the Georgia pro-day on Thursday. No big surprises there with Matt Stafford throwing for the first time and a number of other highly rated prospects working out. However, since I saw this picture I've been wondering just what encouraged Tim Ruskell to get down on one knee with his stop watch next to Mike Mayock. Was there one prospect in particular that Ruskell was paying particularly close attention to? Of course it's nothing out of the ordinary to see a general manager timing a forty yard dash at a pro-day. We're just over a month away from the draft and Seattle have some high picks this year - they need to do their homework. No doubt Ruskell will have likely timed every prospect considering he made the trip.

But then I saw this video clip published today by the NFL Network.

To read the rest of the article, click here.

When the video gets to 4:02 minutes, Knowshon Moreno begins his 40 yard dash. As he completes the run and disappears into a crowd of scouts, reporters and coaches, the camera pans out to show most of the group stood away from the action. Check who's kneeling down at the very front away from the crowd. Is is the same three individuals we see in the picture above? The answer is yes. Look closely to the video clips and you'll see for yourself. It's difficult to get photographic evidence from the clip itself, but I've tried to point you in the right direction here and here.

An annonymous reader sent me the picture at the top of the article, which is much clearer and confirmation that at the very least the Seahawks wanted to get a good look at Moreno.

As previously suggested, it's perfectly plausible that Ruskell remained in that 'front row seat' to see all the prospects. Or maybe, just maybe, there was somebody in particular he wanted to get a good look at.

I want to make it clear that as the title suggests, this is merely a theory. I'm putting this out there to discuss, it's not a stonewall prediction or a suggestion that this is anything other than me thinking out loud. But everything I've seen, read and heard about Knowshon Moreno makes me believe he is a 'Ruskell pick' down to a tee.

Character? Moreno has an infectious personality, is incredibly well spoken and intelligent. No red flags.

Production? In two years with the Bulldogs, he scored 30 touchdowns, compiled 2,736 yards with a further 645 receiving yards and two more TD's

Playing above physical restrictions? Ruskell has never been one to be blown away by a great 40 time or a workout warrior. He's prepared to take a prospect who physically isn't the biggest, fastest or strongest - as long as they are good football players. Moreno hasn't blown anyone away in work outs, but he does on the field.

Safe pick/Instant impact? Despite Moreno's committed running style he has a faultless health record. Rookie running backs don't tend to have the big learning curves that other positions face. Moreno is likely to join a team from day one and contribute, possibly in the same way Jonathan Stewart did for Carolina in 2008 as part of a two pronged attack with DeAngelo Hall.

The only marker you could place against Moreno is that he isn't a four year starter. But let's be honest, how many running backs are these days? He played two solid years for a big school in a pro-style offense. That should be enough compensation.

Even in the aftermath of the T.J. Houshmandzadeh signing, the Seahawks still need an injection of playmaking ability on offense. Steve Wyche reported this week that Seattle were hoping to take an offensive playmaker. That could mean many things - Michael Crabtree anyone? How about a long term replacement for an ageing veteran (Matt Stafford? Jason Smith?). Perhaps it could also mean a wildcard option - someone who isn't a consensus 'elite' talent amongst pundits but is high on the Seahawks draft board?

Again, I want to stress that this is merely a theory. Oakland took a running back with the fourth pick last year in Darren McFadden. He signed a $60m contract with $26m in guarantees and recorded 499 yards and 4 TD's as a rookie. No doubt about it, teams think they can find good running back's in the mid-late rounds and with two-back systems en vogue - the value of RB's has decreased. Considering the team still has Julius Jones and T.J. Duckett on the roster, Seattle would be making a big investment to take Moreno 4th overall.

We can talk about a trade down. It's still highly unlikely due to the finances involved amongst the top five picks. Perhaps Seattle would 'force the issue' by deliberately accepting a token gesture to move down - for example a 5th round pick to drop 3-4 places? We're getting into the realms of fantasy football now when we talk about trades in this detail, but you get the idea.

Whether or not there's any substance to this theory, we likely won't find out until April 25th. I have to believe the Seahawks would be all over this pick had they been drafting in the 10-20 region as opposed to fourth overall. That essentially could be the deciding factor, can you justify a running back that early however much you like them - and if not - can you trade down? Having said that, when the draft comes around and the Seahawks are settling on their big board - I wouldn't be surprised to see Moreno somewhere near the top alongside the Stafford's, the Smith's and the Crabtree's.

Friday, 20 March 2009

Seahawks monitoring Cal's Alex Mack?

Jerry McDonald is reporting at InsideBayArea.com that the Seattle Seahawks were present at Alex Mack's pro day on Wednesday. The California offensive lineman, weighed in at 307 lbs and 6'4" in height. He ran a 5.17 forty yard dash, after missing the combine through injury.

"Mack ended the day with assistant coaches from Baltimore, Seattle and Detroit, who peppered him with questions during a chalk talk and then adjourned to a film room for more probing of his football aptitude. Mack’s agent, Tim Younger, said his client has tentative visits scheduled with Baltimore, Atlanta, Denver, Seattle and Detroit." - Jerry McDonald

I'm not surprised by this news. Mack is a very intelligent, flexible lineman who could fit in at any position in the interior. He has the required athleticism to work in a zone blocking scheme and has prototypical size. Kyle Rota from College Talent Scout is particularly fond of Mack's abilities:

"I believe he will eventually be one of the best centers in the NFL. Mack is a rare player who is a great fit for any scheme – he has the traditional power to play in a man blocking scheme, and the quickness to get to the 2nd level in a zone blocking scheme. Like all college players, he needs to improve his hand use, but if any college player can I’d place my hopes on the high character, intelligent center from Cal." - Kyle Rota

Whether or not he'd be waiting for Seattle at the top of the second round remains to be seen. He could go in the early 20's, with a team like Minnesota potentially looking for a versatile offensive lineman. If Seattle are in position to draft Alex Mack he could well be playing in Seahawk blue in 2009 - he ticks every box Tim Ruskell look for.

Draft Journey: Back to your roots

The NFL Network has produced this superb series over the last few weeks called 'Draft Journey' - following Matt Stafford, Michael Crabtree and Brian Cushing as they prepare for April 25th. In this latest installment, the prospects go back to their roots and re-visit high school. It shows a great insight into how they developed to where they are today (in Crabtree's case, as a quarter back).

Updated mock draft 3/19

1 Detroit Lions - Matt Stafford (QB, Georgia)
Stafford did enough at his pro-day to prove he is worthy of being considered as the number one pick. A lot of reports suggest Detroit might look at one of the offensive tackles or even Aaron Curry here. However, the team needs a quarter back and they won't find the answer later on. The Lions are in total rebuild and a left tackle or linebacker will make little difference in 2009. They should bank their quarter back of the future in the hope of better days ahead.

2 St Louis Rams - Jason Smith (OT, Baylor)
Releasing Orlando Pace almost certainly means the Rams will take an offensive tackle here. Eugene Monroe is the most ready to start, but Jason Smith has the bigger upside. Smith also has a nastier edge to his play and could have greater value in the running game - something the Rams want to focus on next year behind Steven Jackson.

3 Kansas City Chiefs - Aaron Curry (LB, Wake Forest)
It would make sense for Kansas City to take Michael Crabtree here in order to give Matt Cassel another potent weapon as he adapts to new surroundings. However, all the reports and rumors have Curry going third overall. He would play inside linebacker in KC's new 3-4 defense, offering leadership and a Patrick Willis-esque impact as a rookie.

4 Seattle Seahawks - Michael Crabtree (WR, Texas Tech)
Reports this week have suggested the Seahawks want to take an offensive playmaker in the first round. If Seattle really want to add that kind of a prospect to their roster, then Crabtree would make sense. Question marks have been raised about Crabtree's character and that's something that could affect whether the team go in this direction. If the Seahawks are able to move down the board, expect them to target someone like Knowshon Moreno.

5 Cleveland Browns - Brian Orakpo (DE, Texas)
Eric Mangini has been quick to shape things his way in Cleveland. He'd probably be hoping Aaron Curry falls here, but if he doesn't they'll look for the much desired outside pass rush for their 3-4. Orakpo is almost identical physically to Terrell Suggs and can have the same impact as an OLB.
For the rest of the picks click here.

6 Cincinnati Bengals - Eugene Monroe (OT, Virginia)
The Bengals' main priority has to be protecting Carson Palmer. Luckily, that's the one area Monroe excels. His pass protection skills are unmatched in this draft class. There are legitimate concerns about Monroe's inconsistent effort and willingness to get to the second level, but Cincy will be happy to plug him at left tackle from day one knowing their quarter back will have his blind side well covered.

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 - Mark Sanchez (QB, USC)
The Jaguars would like one of the top two offensive tackles to fall to them here, and we've seen their willingness to trade up to fill a hole (Derrick Harvey, 2008). If they can't move up a few spots to get Jason Smith or Eugene Monroe, they'll consider taking a long term option at quarter back. David Garrard is 31 and sitting on a 6-year $60m contract. Is he a realistic long term leader of this franchise? Mark Sanchez could sit for one or two years before becoming the starter.

9 Green Bay Packers - Everette Brown (DE, Florida State)
Switching to a 3-4 scheme the Packers need another OLB to play across from Aaron Kampman. Brown is arguably the best pass rusher in this draft class and would fit nicely into Green Bay's new system.

10 San Francisco 49ers - Andre Smith (OT, Alabama)
In my last mock draft I had Smith falling out of the first round. He's been a walking disaster area since getting suspended for the Sugar Bowl. However, put on the game tape and there's a talented lineman there. Offensive tackles are a premium position in the NFL and for that reason, Smith might even remain in the top ten picks. Smith needs a mentor, a strong head coach who can develop his maturity. Mike Singletary could be the man for the job.

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. As mentioned in the previous pick, 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 - Tyson Jackson (DE, LSU)
The Broncos are in the midst of a switch to a 3-4 defensive scheme led by Mike Nolan. Denver's defense has been given something of a make over in free agency but they are still serious lacking some beef up front. Jackson's size and versatility make him an obvious choice as a 3-4 end.

13 Washington Redskins - Knowshon Moreno (RB, Georgia)
The Redskins have many more needs than running back. But with the top four offensive tackles gone and with Orakpo and Brown also off the board, they have to review their options. Knowshon Moreno is the most under rated player in the draft and would be perfect in a two-back system with Clinton Portis. With only four picks in this year's draft, finding an impact rookie in round one is desirable.

14 New Orleans Saints - Malcolm Jenkins (CB/S, Ohio State)
Jenkins' recovery speed has been a big talking point during the off season. If it's enough of a concern for teams, he could fall down the board. Nobody will take a project safety this early. However, a team like New Orleans could take a chance on Jenkins knowing if it works out they'll have a great player on their roster.

15 Houston Texans - Brian Cushing (LB, USC)
Cushing could go earlier than this, he's impressed enough in work outs to warrant greater consideration in the top 15 picks. If he falls this far, Houston will waste little time handing in their selection. The Texans are building a solid roster and Cushing would be a valuable addition to their defense.

16 San Diego Chargers - Jeremy Maclin (WR, Missouri)
Chris Chambers is in a contract year and will be 31, whilst Vincent Jackson was recently arrested for DUI. Wide receiver isn't the greatest need for San Diego, but Maclin offers flexibility and an instant impact as a kick returner.

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 and Josh Freeman remains a possibility.

18 Chicago Bears - Eben Britton (OT, Arizona)
Chicago have needs at defensive end, wide receiver and quarter back. However, they could also use an upgrade on the offensive line. Britton excelled at both right and left tackle for Arizona and can be plugged into the line from day one.

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 - Peria Jerry (DT, Ole Miss)
The Lions recently traded Cory Redding to the Seahawks and need to add to their defensive line via the draft. Jerry had a good Senior Bowl and scored a touchdown in the game. The depth at defensive tackle isn't that deep in 2009, so the Lions could pull the trigger on Jerry with this pick.

21 Philadelphia Eagles - Chris Wells (RB, Ohio State)
Wells is a difficult one to place. He has legitimate top 15 talent and a very personable character. He has got an injury history though and questions remain about his durability. Such fears will be calmed playing in a two back system with Brian Westbrook in what would become a formidable partnership.

22 Minnesota Vikings - Vontae Davis (CB, Illinois)
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. Davis has lockdown potential and could go higher than this. Good value for the Vikings with this choice.

23 New England Patriots - Alphonso Smith (CB, Wake Forest)
The Patriots have added Shawn Springs to their roster but I believe they will look to take a corner back with this pick. Smith fits what the Patriots look for not only in a CB, but in a prospect. A wild card option could be Connor Barwin, who appears to be the second coming of Mike Vrabel.

24 Atlanta Falcons - Clay Matthews Jr. (LB, USC)
Matthews Jr. has done a great job improving his stock throughout the offseason. Atlanta would be getting some value if he fell this far. The Falcons showed in 2008 that they have an offense that can compete, now they need to improve the defense.

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 - Evander Hood (DT, Missouri)
Hood had a great pro-day to further enhance his stock. He's another prospect who's difficult to place. He could easily fall into the second round the same way Trevor Laws (Notre Dame) did last year. The Colts need an injection of strength on the defensive line.

28 Philadelphia Eagles - Brandon Pettigrew (TE, Oklahoma State)
Pettigrew's stock has fallen a little in recent weeks, he's not done anything miraculous in work outs. Having said that, it'll be a surprise if he falls any lower than this. The Eagles would be getting a very good tight end with this pick.

29 New York Giants - Hakeem Nicks (WR, North Carolina)
The Giants have paid a lot of attention to their defense in free agency and need to add a solid offensive weapon in the draft. Nobody knows what the future of Plaxico Burress is and Amani Toomer is gone, so receiver could be a target here.

30 Tennessee Titans - Robert Ayers (DE, Tennessee)
The Buffalo Bills had Ayers in for a work out so there's every chance he could go a lot earlier than this. 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. If he falls this far, he could be the pick.

31 Arizona Cardinals - Aaron Maybin (DE, Penn State)
Maybin is a talented prospect but it's hard to predict exactly how teams view him. Is he too under sized? Can he bulk up and keep his speed? Arizona are switching to a hybrid 3-4 defense and Maybin could come in as a pass rushing OLB.

32 Pittsburgh Steelers - Alex Mack (C/G, California)
The Steelers have been very active in signing up the current member of their offensive line. It's still not a great line and could do with improving. Even so, the Steelers will never be restricted by need and will take the best player on their board. It could be Mack. He has top 20 talent and only falls this far due to the position he plays.

Selection of second round picks: DET - James Laurinaitis (LB, Ohio State), NE - Connor Barwin (DE, Cincinnati), STL - Louis Delmas (S, Western Michigan), CLE - Donald Brown (RB, Connecticut), SEA - Max Unger (C, Oregon), CIN - Brian Robiskie (WR, Ohio State), JAC - William Beatty (OT, Connecticut), OAK - D.J. Moore (CB, Vanderbilt), GB - Jamon Meredith (OT, South Carolina), BUF - Michael Johnson (DE, Georgia Tech), SF - Clint Sintim (DE/OLB, Virginia), MIA - Darrius Butler (CB, Connecticut).