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Sooners could make history

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Recent posts by Nolan Nawrocki

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Posted March 15, 2010 @ 8:55 p.m. ET
By Nolan Nawrocki

Oklahoma could produce the strongest showing by a college at the top of the NFL draft since Michigan State's hallowed 1966 squad produced four of the top eight picks in the '67 draft. That year saw Spartans get selected first (DE Bubba Smith), second (RB Clint Jones), fifth (LB George Webster) and eighth (WR Gene Washington) overall.

Not only could Sooners be selected first and second overall (something that has happened only three times in NFL history), they potentially could yield three of the top four picks in this year's draft.

Collectively, PFW projects a record-setting 18 underclassmen will be drafted in the first round in this mock draft, which would set a league record and is proof of the strength of the underclassman class.

The value of this draft is clearly in the trenches, as a total of eight offensive linemen and nine defensive linemen are pegged to fit into the first round, comprising more than half of the initial round.

Underclassmen are designated by an asterisk (*).

1. St. Louis Rams
QB Sam Bradford, Oklahoma*

Although he is not the draft's highest graded talent or the best player available, Bradford plays the highest premium position and is the only surefire passer in this draft at a spot the Rams desperately need to address. A trade is not out of the works if they can find the right terms. 

2. Detroit Lions
DT Gerald McCoy, Oklahoma*

After drafting Sammie Hill last year and trading for Corey Williams, the Lions have plenty of size to stack the middle. What they need inside is a pass rusher who can get to the quarterback, and applying pressure is what McCoy does best.

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
DT Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska

Before taking over for Jon Gruden, Raheem Morris coordinated Kansas State's defense and is very familiar with Suh from Morris' days in the Big 12. Big, strong and stout, Suh could anchor the middle of the Buccaneers' defense for a long time.

4. Washington Redskins
OLT Trent Williams, Oklahoma

Questions continue to swirl about Williams' work ethic and toughness, and it could have a slight spiraling impact on his draft status, but Mike Shanahan and Bruce Allen have shown they will take chances on some perceived character risks, as Shanahan did in selecting Jarvis Moss in Denver and as Allen did by selecting Gaines Adams in Tampa Bay. With Chris Samuels having retired, the Redskins have a dire need to fill, and the quick-footed Williams best fits Shanahan's zone-blocking scheme.

5. Kansas City Chiefs
OLT Bryan Bulaga, Iowa*

GM Scott Pioli showed when he drafted Tyson Jackson a year ago that he not only values safe selections, but that he prefers to build inside-out. Bulaga is the safest tackle in this year's draft, and Pioli could feel comfortable knowing exactly what he is getting with strong ties to the Kirk Ferentz-led Iowa program.

6. Seattle Seahawks
OLT Russell Okung, Oklahoma State

With Walter Jones set to retire, the Seahawks desperately must address the OT position. Okung could prove to be a better right tackle than left, but his length will allow him to function on the left side in the pros and give injury-riddled QB Matt Hasselbeck a better chance to survive another season.

7. Cleveland Browns
FS Eric Berry, Tennessee*

After choosing not to tender FS Brodney Pool, Eric Mangini's defense now needs more help at safety than it does at cornerback, and a player with potential to help at both positions will be difficult for even an offensive-minded president such as Mike Holmgren to pass up.

8. Oakland Raiders
OLT Bruce Campbell, Maryland*

Al Davis is not ready to give up on JaMarcus Russell, and the best way to let him develop is to give him more time in the pocket. Campbell fits the Davis prototype as the draft's quintessential tease. He grades out like a fifth-rounder on tape, but has intriguing measurables that will be too difficult for Davis to pass on. He could easily re-unite with Darrius Heyward-Bey, a former Terps teammate.

9. Buffalo Bills
RB C.J. Spiller, Clemson

The Bills need a lot of help on defense as they convert from an even to odd front, but the depth of the DL class will allow for more options to fill their front in the coming rounds. Finding a game-breaking talent such as Spiller outside the top 15 picks is much more difficult, and head coach Chan Gailey is fully aware of Spiller from his days coaching against him in the ACC. (Spiller racked up 166 yards and two TDs as a true freshman against Gailey's Yellowjackets in 2006). The continued off-field troubles of Marshawn Lynch only further deepens the Bills' RB need. Spiller could contend for rookie of the year honors by factoring into three phases — running, receiving and returning — and give QB Trent Edwards the confidence he needs to succeed.

10. Jacksonville Jaguars
DE Derrick Morgan, Georgia Tech*

Neither Derrick Harvey nor Quentin Groves have lived up to their draft potential, and the Jaguars need to upgrade a stagnant pass rush. Morgan has intriguing scheme flexibility — able to play on either side — and has a motor that never stops. GM Gene Smith made the trenches a top priority in last year's draft, more so on the offensive side of the ball, and could continue to build up front defensively.

11. Denver Broncos (From Bears)
WR Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State*

Bryant is hands down the top receiver in the draft, but questions about his reliability and intelligence could push him down draft boards considerably. Once he escapes the top 10, the investment a team needs to make diminishes considerably relative to the WR position, however. Josh McDaniels has experience managing prima donnas, having working with Randy Moss and Brandon Marshall (who could still be dealt or signed by another team via the restricted free-agent market) and might have the support system in place to keep Bryant focused.

12. Miami Dolphins
OLB Sergio Kindle, Texas

After parting ways with Joey Porter, the Dolphins are left with a lot of questions at outside linebacker. Kindle is big, strong and explosive and could be very attractive to Bill Parcells.

13. San Francisco 49ers
QB Jimmy Clausen, Notre Dame*

The premium on the QB position could easily pull Clausen off draft boards sooner, the same way Mark Sanchez fit into the top five a year ago, but if Clausen is available, the Niners could have a difficult time passing on him, despite the resurgence of Alex Smith last season.

14. Seattle Seahawks (From Broncos)
DE Brandon Graham, Michigan
Darryl Tapp was just dealt to the Eagles, Lawrence Jackson has struggled to live up to expectations and Patrick Kerney could be on his way out before long, creating nearly as great a void at the DE position as there is at offensive tackle. Graham possesses the strength, burst and motor to consistently produce.

15. New York Giants
MLB Rolando McClain, Alabama*

Tom Coughlin needs to replace recently released defensive leader Antonio Pierce, and there is no better inside 'backer in this draft than the Butkus Award winner, who does not figure to be affected much by Crohn's disease.

16. Tennessee Titans
DE Jason Pierre-Paul, South Florida*

With storied DL coach Jim Washburn known for turning water into wine, the Titans could be intrigued by the raw, athletic talent of Pierre-Paul, who is even more of a project than Jevon Kearse was coming out of college. 

17. San Francisco 49ers (From Panthers)
OG Mike Iupati, Idaho
Iupati possesses the physical tools to play guard or tackle, with refined technique, and his versatility and aggressive style of play will blend well with Jimmy Raye's run-first, pound-the-rock philosophy.

18. Pittsburgh Steelers
C Maurkice Pouncey, Florida*

No franchise has a more storied history at the center position than the Steelers, and they could add another great one to the mix with the selection of Pouncey, who is much better suited to handle Shaun Rogers and Haloti Ngata twice a year than Justin Hartwig ever was.

19. Atlanta Falcons
DE Jerry Hughes, TCU
With Jamaal Anderson failing to create pressure and John Abraham remaining inconsistent, the Falcons need to find a way to heat up the edges, and Hughes has the edge burst and motor to make a mark quickly.

20. Houston Texans
DT Dan Williams, Tennessee

Gary Kubiak shocked the league when he drafted Mario Williams ahead of Reggie Bush upon his arrival, and despite having a potentially greater need in the backfield, the Texans' offense creates running backs. What Kubiak and GM Rick Smith need to do is fortify the interior of the defensive line, and Williams could help greatly in that area.

21. Cincinnati Bengals
TE Jermaine Gresham, Oklahoma*

Despite signing Antonio Bryant in free agency, the Bengals still could use more help to lift Carson Palmer out of the doldrums, and the addition of a top-flight pass catcher at tight end really could open up the Bengals' passing game.

22. New England Patriots
FS Earl Thomas, Texas*
Bill Belichick has clung to the philosophy of drafting the best available player, and despite more pressing needs at outside linebacker and receiver, Thomas will stand out on the Patriots' board if he were to slide this far and could potentially help the Patriots at cornerback or safety. 

23. Green Bay Packers
OLT Anthony Davis, Rutgers*

The Packers essentially signed Chad Clifton to a series of one-year deals that he might never play out, and after addressing the defense early last year, need to revisit a struggling offensive line that at one point was on pace to break the league record for sacks allowed. Despite some character questions, Davis could appear to be a steal at this spot, much like Michael Oher a year ago, if he is to slide as expected after showing his immaturity in interviews and not working out well at the Combine.

24. Philadelphia Eagles
DE Everson Griffen, USC*

Griffen has as much raw pass-rushing talent as any pass rusher in the draft, and played through injuries much of his junior season, which needs to be factored into evaluations and could help his cause on Draft Day more than it hurts. However, his lack of focus and immaturity are considerable questions that need to be addressed and could force him to slide to the Eagles or even potentially push him out of the first round.

25. Baltimore Ravens
CB Joe Haden, Florida*
When Terrell Suggs ran poorly at his pro-day workout coming out of college, the Ravens let out a collective sigh and quietly were overjoyed that the draft's best pass rusher was more likely to fall into their laps at the No. 10 spot. The draft gods have a way of working in the Ravens' favor, as Baltimore continually unearths good football players in the first round that are not perceived to have prototypical size (Ed Reed, Ray Lewis), speed (Suggs, Chris McAlister) or makeup (Michael Oher, Jonathan Ogden, Joe Flacco). With a strong need at cornerback, they could be in a position of strength again and staring at their pick of the litter from a CB class featuring solid depth, but lacking elite talent.

26. Arizona Cardinals
LB Sean Weatherspoon, Missouri

With Karlos Dansby heading to Miami, the Cardinals have a gaping hole in the middle of their defense, and could fill it with the selection of Weatherspoon, who could last late into the first round because of inconsistencies in his play, short arms, a tendency to get stuck on blocks and an inability to navigate through clutter.

27. Dallas Cowboys
FS Taylor Mays, USC

With Ken Hamlin falling out of favor in Dallas, the greatest need on a very talented roster could be at safety. Mays' rare size-speed combo would be too difficult for Jerry Jones to pass up. While it might seem low for Mays to fall in light of his eye-popping straight-line speed, questions about his instincts, missed tackles and ball skills left many evaluators stamping third-round grades on the four-year starter during the fall, and it's not inconceivable at all that he is the third safety drafted or slides into open arms at the back of the first round. 

28. San Diego Chargers
RB Ryan Mathews, Fresno State*

After saying goodbye to LaDainian Tomlinson, the Chargers could look to a local product to replace a legend and handle the tough, between-the-tackles carries at a position that clearly needs to be addressed.

29. New York Jets
WR Demaryius Thomas, Georgia Tech*

Despite breaking his foot training in preparation for the Combine, Thomas should be healthy before the draft to run again, and has the type of size the Jets covet in their receivers to pair alongside Braylon Edwards and support the growth of Mark Sanchez.

30. Minnesota Vikings
CB Devin McCourty, Rutgers

The Vikes could use a No. 3 cornerback, especially with Cedric Griffin and Antoine Winfield coming off injury-riddled seasons. McCourty fits the fast, physical mold that suits the Vikings' style.

31. Indianapolis Colts
OT Rodger Saffold, Indiana

Bill Polian has a penchant for drafting Big Ten talent and has shown he will reach to select offensive linemen, as he mistakenly did with Tony Ugoh, and to fill positions of need. It makes little sense to protect the game's best quarterback with one of the worst starting offensive tackles (Charlie Johnson) in the game. Whether at guard or tackle, Saffold upgrades a struggling offensive line from Day One.

32. New Orleans Saints
DL Jared Odrick, Penn State

Unheralded in the Saints' championship quest is all the defensive linemen that the Saints have drafted in the first round through the years. Sedrick Ellis, Will Smith, Johnathan Sullivan, Charles Grant and Darren Howard were all early selections in the past decade, and after cutting Grant, less than half remain, increasing the need for another versatile defender.

To read Nolan Nawrocki's scouting reports on the aforementioned players — and 395 players in all — as well as player rankings, team needs and much more, you can now pre-order your copy of PFW's 2010 Draft Preview online at PFWstore.com, or you can purchase your copy of the book at newsstands and bookstores across the country when it goes on sale March 30.

For the most authoritative NFL draft news and free-agency analysis, visit ProFootballWeekly.com.

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