By Rob Staton
The combine begins tomorrow so this is my final projected mock draft before the event takes place. We can debate the merits of work outs and how much you can truly learn from watching a guy perform in shorts - but prospects can undoubtedly boost or hinder their stock in Indianapolis. Draft boards will begin to take shape as we move towards the various pro-days. Whatever anyone says - this is hugely important date on the NFL calendar, it's fascinating and teams rightly value this opportunity to compare prospects physically and do their homework through interviews and socialising.
Speculation continues to suggest St. Louis will look to acquire a quarterback before the draft, allowing them to potentially select Ndamukong Suh or Gerald McCoy first overall. It's still largely unclear what direction the Rams will go under new ownership. One thing is for sure though - St. Louis must find a new quarterback. Spending a fortune on another defensive lineman, however good Suh/McCoy could be, will not help the Rams turn the page on a record that reads six wins in three years and no winning seasons since 2003. Quarterback is the most important position in the NFL and having passed on Matt Ryan (to select Chris Long) and Mark Sanchez (to select Jason Smith), the Rams will be wary of strike three.
#1 St. Louis: Sam Bradford (QB, Oklahoma)
The Rams have to bring in a quarterback this off season who can take this team forward. Six wins in three years isn't good enough for this franchise and another expensive lineman won't take this team to the next plateau. They have a decent offensive line, they have a very good running back. Time to get a franchise QB.
#2 Detroit: Gerald McCoy (DT, Oklahoma)
McCoy gets the nod here simply because he's quicker and more disruptive up the middle. Detroit would have a tough decision to make with both Suh and McCoy on the board.
#3 Tampa Bay: Ndamukong Suh (DT, Nebraska)
If the Rams take a quarterback, it appears likely the top two defensive tackles will go #2 and #3. The Buccs' defensive line needs the kind of jolt someone like Suh could bring.
#4 Washington: Jimmy Clausen (QB, Notre Dame)
The 'Skins have to find a long term franchise quarterback. Drafting Clausen offers the best possible opportunity to turn a new page in 2010 and not need to witness a lame duck season from Jason Campbell.
#5 Kansas City: Rolando McClain (LB, Alabama)
Don't be swayed by recent negative reviews of McClain in some quarters. It's not like Tyson Jackson was getting a top five grade this time last year. The Chiefs are committed to creating a strong 3-4 defense but lack that presence at inside linebacker. McClain can be an impact player for Kansas City.
#6 Seattle: Anthony Davis (OT, Rutgers)
The Seahawks have to get younger (and better) at the games premium positions. With the top two quarterbacks off the board, they could look at offensive lineman, pass rushers and playmakers. Davis isn't an obvious fit for the Alex Gibbs' zone system, but he has Ryan Clady-type potential and good coaching could make him a dominant force.
#7 Cleveland: Joe Haden (CB, Florida)
The Browns could fight the board and go offense with both Dez Bryant and C.J. Spiller available, but Haden is the best cornerback in this class and fills a need.
#8 Oakland: Jason Pierre-Paul (DE, USF)
We know how Al Davis' drafts. The three prospects to keep an eye on - JPP, Bruce Campbell and Taylor Mays. All expected to run fast time at the combine and flash the physical qualities Davis looks for.
#9 Buffalo: Bryan Bulaga (OT, Iowa)
The Bills need to improve their offensive line. Bulaga will interest teams as a left tackle, but like Jake Long he could be an all-pro on the right hand side.
#10 Jacksonville: Eric Berry (S, Tennessee)
I expect the Jaguars to explore every trade avenue possible to move down. If they can't move away from this spot - Berry makes sense as Jacksonville are looking to rebuild their secondary.
#11 Denver: Carlos Dunlap (DE, Florida)
Dunalp's size makes him a perfect option at five technique end in the Broncos 3-4.
#12 Miami: Dan Williams (DT, Tennessee)
Williams' ability to play the coveted 3-4 nose tackle position will make him a desirable pick for teams using the scheme.
#13 San Francisco: Trent Williams (OT, Oklahoma)
The 49ers will consider drafting a right tackle to compliment Joe Staley on the left hand side.
#14 Seattle: Dez Bryant (WR, Oklahoma State)
The Seahawks need playmakers. Nate Burleson is a free agent and Deion Branch may not be with the team much longer. Houshmandzadeh, Butler and Obomanu won't cut it alone. Bryant is capable of being a force in the NFL.
#15 New York Giants: Derrick Morgan (DE, Georgia Tech)
Morgan has great potential, but amongst the cluster of 3-4 teams and alternative picks - he might suffer a slight fall on draft day. This would be a perfect fit for both prospect and team.
#16 San Francisco: Earl Thomas (S, Texas)
Would the 49ers use Thomas as a cornerback or a safety? His long term future may be at corner, but he's a much needed playmaker in the secondary.
#17 Tennessee: Brian Price (DT, UCLA)
The Titans are another team who will likely look to upgrade their defensive line. Price is a penetrative interior force.
#18 Pittsburgh: Taylor Mays (S, USC)
This is one of the few places Mays could go and have a real impact. Playing behind a good pass rushing defense, Mays and fellow Trojan Troy Polamalu could create the most intimidating secondary combo in the NFL.
#19 Atlanta: Kareem Jackson (CB, Alabama)
What price a trade with Jacksonville to take Joe Haden? Jackson's stock will rise after the combine and he could go higher than this.
#20 Houston: C.J. Spiller (RB, Clemson)
If Spiller runs a super-quick forty yard dash, he could be a top ten pick. Alternatively, teams are wary of spending high picks at the running back position so he might suffer a slight fall.
#21 Cincinnati: Arrelious Benn (WR, Illinois)
Bad quarterback play and inconsistent hands has hurt Benn's stock, but this is still a guy touted as a top 15 pick at the start of the year. A tight end like Jermaine Gresham is also a possibility.
#22 New England: Jared Odrick (DT, Penn State)
The Patriots are in the process of major changes on their defensive line. Drafting the versatile Odrick gives New England some options long term.
#23 Green Bay: Russell Okung (OT, Oklahoma State)
Kyle Rota's scouting report on Okung is an absolute must read and highlights some of the reasons why Okung might not be a top ten lock. He would've been a late first round pick as an underclassmen, nothing this year has proved otherwise in my opinion.
#24 Philadelphia: Everson Griffen (DE, USC)
The Eagles need a better pass rush, that was evident in their playoff defeat at Dallas. Griffen's stock is difficult to project, he could rise up the boards with an impressive combine.
#25 Baltimore: Devin McCourty (CB, Rutgers)
McCourty is one of a handful of cornerbacks who could really boost their stock in Indianapolis.
#26 Arizona: Charles Brown (OT, USC)
Brown could go a lot higher than this if he shows up at the combine above 300lbs and puts on a show.
#27 Dallas: Kyle Wilson (CB, Boise State)
The Cowboys would like to add a playmaker to their secondary. Wilson would also double up as a return specialist.
#28 San Diego: Brandon Graham (DE, Michigan)
Graham is flexible enough to play in either the 4-3 or the 3-4. San Diego could use another pass rusher off the edge and Graham is par value here.
#29 New York Jets: Dominique Franks (CB, Oklahoma)
Rex Ryan loves adding to his secondary. The Jets have a consistent pass rush and collecting talented defensive backs will make New York very difficult to beat.
#30 Minnesota: Lamarr Houston (DT, Texas)
Disruptive interior presence who is capable of collapsing the pocket. This could be an area of need for the Vikings soon.
#31 Indianapolis: Sean Weatherspoon (LB, Missouri)
Watching tape of Missouri, I was never blown away by Weatherspoon. He put in an eye catching display at the Senior Bowl, however, and some teams will appreciate his athleticism and ability to start as a rookie.
#32 New Orleans: Sergio Kindle (LB, Texas)
The Saints could use Kindle creatively, as a linebacker most of the time but an edge rush on passing third downs.
#33 St. Louis: Brandon LaFell (WR, LSU)
Having found their franchise quarterback in round one, the Rams find a potential #1 receiver.
#34 Detroit: Anthony Dixon (RB, Miss State)
The Lions will look to add a running back regardless of Kevin Smith's recovery. Dixon is pure power.
#35 Tampa Bay: Mike Williams (WR, Syracuse)
This would be a huge gamble due to Williams' character concerns, but his talent warrants a selection this high.
#36 Kansas City: Cam Thomas (DT, North Carolina)
The Chiefs continue their commitment towards building a strong 3-4 defense by finding a nose tackle.
#37 Washington: Bruce Campbell (OT, Maryland)
The Redskins need to add to their offensive line in free agency or the draft.
#38 Cleveland: Eric Decker (WR, Minnesota)
Browns GM Tom Heckert watched Decker personally on a few occasions in 2009. Coming from Philly, he understands the true value of having playmakers on offense.
#39 Oakland: Patrick Robinson (CB, Florida State)
Al Davis loves to draft defensive backs. He also loves to draft guys who run fast forty yard dash times. Robinson fits the criteria.
#40 Seattle: Chad Jones (S, LSU)
The Seahawks target a presence in the secondary like Jones, who has a great combination of size and speed.
#41 Buffalo: Rob Gronkowski (TE, Arizona)
Chan Gailey needs a good blocking tight end for his offense.
#42 Tampa Bay: Demaryius Thomas (WR, Georgia Tech)
Thomas' injury could push him down draft boards, but if he recovers in time he'd offer a big target for Josh Freeman.
#43 Miami: Brandon Spikes (LB, Florida)
The Dolphins need an inside presence.
#44 New England: Alex Carrington (DE, Arkansas State)
Having accumulated second round picks, the Pats continue to add to their defensive line.
#45 Denver: Maurkice Pouncey (C, Florida)
The Broncos need a center and Pouncey is par value.
#46 New York Giants: Jahvid Best (RB, California)
Not a huge need for NYG, but the Giants would be able to control Best's touches and get the best out of him in a three-pronged rushing attack.
#47 New England: Aaron Hernandez (TE, Florida)
Tom Brady would love throwing to Hernandez.
#48 Carolina: Damian Williams (WR, USC)
The Panthers go for value and take the under rated Williams.
#49 San Francisco: Jerry Hughes (DE, TCU)
Hughes did a great job for TCU in 2009, but opinion is mixed on his pro-prospects.
#50 Kansas City: Jermaine Gresham (TE, Oklahoma)
Two knee injuries could concern teams enough to force Gresham into round two. He has clear first round talent, though.
#51 Houston: Jerome Murphy (CB, USF)
The Texans will consider adding to their secondary if they go offense in round one.
#52 Pittsburgh: Perrish Cox (CB, Oklahoma State)
The Steelers might look to add a cornerback and Cox is worth the 52nd overall pick.
#53 New England: Ricky Sapp (LB, Clemson)
I like Sapp enough to put him in round one, but he's a difficult prospect to judge in terms of how teams would use him.
#54 Cincinnati: Mike Iupati (OG, Idaho)
Iupati's agility and size gives him first round potential. However, he still struggles with leverage and this could keep him in round two.
#55 Philadelphia: Nate Allen (S, Georgia Tech)
The Eagles need a safety, although this might be half a round too early for Allen.
#56 Green Bay: Donovan Warren (CB, Michigan)
Warren's stock is mixed. Some rank him as a first round pick.
#57 Baltimore: Mardy Gilyard (WR, Cincinnati)
The Ravens' have a number of options at receiver this off season but if they reach the draft having not made a move, I think they'd consider a prospect like Gilyard.
#58 Arizona: Jason Worilds (DE, Virginia Tech)
The Cardinals, looking to continue improving their defense, consider Worilds as a pass rushing outside threat.
#59 Dallas: Jordan Shipley (WR, Texas)
Pure Jerry Jones style pick.
#60 San Diego: Joe McKnight (RB, USC)
McKnight is my third favorite running back in this class. I have teams passing on Dwyer and Matthews, although Dwyer has lost weight and can improve his stock substantially by running well at the combine.
#61 New York Jets: Corey Wootton (DE, Northwestern)
Wootton's ability to play five technique end will appeal to the Jets.
#62 Minnesota: Brett Ghee (CB, Wake Forest)
The Vikings add to their secondary after spending their first pick on the defensive line.
#63 Indianapolis: Tsyon Alualu (DE, California)
Alualu is capable of playing off the edge or in the interior.
#64 New Orleans - Golden Tate (WR, Notre Dame)
I don't buy talk of Tate going in round one or even the early second round.