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Recent posts by Nolan Nawrocki
Needs are not likely to change as much from now until draft time with greater restrictions in free agency, and the strength in future free-agent classes created by the extension of restricted free agency could make teams more likely to deal future draft picks this year, knowing they will be enticed to buy more proven talent in subsequent years. The free-agency phenomenon, combined with extending the draft to three days, could potentially produce a record number of trades. The mock draft that follows does not factor any trading, however, and reflects needs as of presstime on March 28.
Editor's note: Underclassmen are denoted by an asterisk (*)
1. St. Louis Rams
QB Sam Bradford* — Oklahoma
The premium on the QB position makes Bradford the most valuable player in the draft from a trade standpoint. With so many holes on the roster, the Rams could benefit from trading down and acquiring more picks, but the greatest chance of executing a trade will come by selecting Bradford, who, if no trade is made, fills the Rams' greatest need.
2. Detroit Lions
OLT Russell Okung — Oklahoma State
Jeff Backus is 32 years old with 32½-inch arms, the shortest of any left tackle in the league, and he struggled to keep prized QB Matthew Stafford healthy in his first season at the helm. Lions' brass has made an effort to draft more securely and, although Okung is not the most athletic offensive tackle, he is a very safe pick.
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
DT Gerald McCoy* — Oklahoma
The Buccaneers could be sitting in an enviable position with a huge need at defensive tackle and their choice of the draft's best defender. The ability to consistently rush the passer should play into McCoy's favor.
4. Washington Redskins
DT Ndamukong Suh — Nebraska
The key position in a "30" front is nose tackle, and the Redskins are counting on 31-year-old Ma'ake Kemoeatu, who is coming off an injury, to hold down the middle. Greater needs exist at the QB and OLT positions, but Mike Shanahan has shown he can make his quick-hitting offense function with average quarterbacks (Jake Plummer, Brian Griese) and free- agent left tackles (Matt Lepsis). Daniel Snyder aggressively tried to acquire Jay Cutler and trade into position for Mark Sanchez last year and would like nothing more than to acquire a franchise quarterback, but if the Redskins cannot move into position to land Bradford, they could find Suh too talented to pass up and welcome a centerpiece to their defense.
5. Kansas City Chiefs
FS Eric Berry* — Tennessee
It's difficult to justify spending top-five money on the safety position, but with more teams airing out the ball and picking apart secondaries, a new premium has been placed on defending the back half, where the Chiefs are sorely undermanned.
6. Seattle Seahawks
OLT Trent Williams — Oklahoma
After relying on Walter Jones for so many years, the Seahawks need to find a replacement, and no one is better-suited for Alex Gibbs' zone-blocking scheme than Williams.
7. Cleveland Browns
WR Dez Bryant* — Oklahoma State
After shipping off Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow, Derek Anderson struggled to function. If Mike Holmgren expects to get a return on the investment he made in Jake Delhomme, he will need at least one playmaker on offense. Bryant has the hands, body control and leaping ability to make an average quarterback look good.
8. Oakland Raiders
OLT Bruce Campbell* — Maryland
There is no tape to support Campbell being drafted anywhere near this early, but Al Davis has not relied on football-playing evaluations for a long time. Instead, he drafts on numbers and perceived upside, and a physical marvel like Campbell could be too much for Davis to pass up.
9. Buffalo Bills
RB C.J. Spiller — Clemson
The Bills are legitimate contenders in the market for Donovan McNabb, and he could provide a missing piece of the puzzle, but whether or not the Bills are able to upgrade the QB position, they could still sorely use a catalyst in the mold of Brian Westbrook to take over games, and Spiller has the ability to electrify.
10. Jacksonville Jaguars
QB Jimmy Clausen* — Notre Dame
The Tim Tebow show is expected to come to Jacksonville, and it still may be a possibility — only if he is available in the second round and the Jaguars cannot address the position sooner. David Garrard has not been able to get the Jaguars over the hump, and a new offensive leader is needed.
11. Denver Broncos (From Chicago)
OG-OT Bryan Bulaga* — Iowa
The Broncos are as sound on the edges as any team could be, with Ryan Clady and Ryan Harris very capably manning the corners, but if they want to pound the ball, they need a more physical temperament on the inside, and Bulaga could add it to their ground game from Day One.
12. Miami Dolphins
FS Taylor Mays — USC
Earl Thomas is a more instinctive, ballhawking defender and more worthy of being the second safety off the board. However, Bill Parcells is too enticed by size and will be thinking he can mold Mays, an immature physical specimen, into a player.
13. San Francisco 49ers
ILB Rolando McClain* — Alabama
Pairing McClain with Patrick Willis at inside 'backer could give the Niners a dominant duo to defend the middle. Quintessential pro Takeo Spikes is entering his 13th season and soon will need to be replaced.
14. Seattle Seahawks (From Denver)
DE Derrick Morgan* — Georgia Tech
Dealing Darryl Tapp to the Eagles only increases the Seahawks' need for an end, even if they received Chris Clemons in exchange. Patrick Kerney is 33, has lost a step and has not been able to stay healthy, and Morgan can ably step in to replace him.
15. New York Giants
TE Jermaine Gresham* — Oklahoma
Kevin Boss has limitations, and Travis Beckum was a disappointment as a rookie. The Giants could open up their offense considerably if they were able to stretch the seam more consistently, as Gresham is very capable of doing.
16. Tennessee Titans
DE Sergio Kindle — Texas
Owner Bud Adams still makes his residence in Houston and has an affinity for Texas-grown talent, with four starters (Vince Young, Michael Griffin, Bo Scaife, Ahmard Hall) all hailing from Longhorn country. Kindle is best with his hand on the ground and could bring the edge burst the Titans are seeking to ramp up their pass rush.
17. San Francisco 49ers (from Carolina)
CB Joe Haden* — Florida
With Nate Clements struggling last season and the Niners lacking a true No. 1 corner, Haden would fill a strong area of need and give coordinator Greg Manusky the chance to be more creative with pressure packages.
18. Pittsburgh Steelers
OG Mike Iupati — Idaho
Chris Kemoeatu turned out to be a very solid find for the Steelers in the sixth round, possessing the power desired to clear holes in the running game. Iupati could be paired with Kemoeatu to establish the physical running game Mike Tomlin is seeking to re-establish after taking to the air much more often last season, and Iupati's versatility is a big plus on a line with a number of holes.
19. Atlanta Falcons
DE Brandon Graham — Michigan
The Falcons did not get enough from their pass rush last season, with rookie DT Peria Jerry being shelved because of injury and DE Jamaal Anderson struggling to produce a sack per season in his three years as a starter since Rich McKay and Bobby Petrino made him the eighth overall selection. Graham has enough strength to stack the run and much better foot energy to rush the passer and would upgrade the Falcons' rush.
20. Houston Texans
FS Earl Thomas* — Texas
Bernard Pollard turned out to be a bargain pickup for the Texans, but Eugene Wilson's inability to stay healthy remains an issue, and he may have more value at cornerback, where the Texans are now short after letting Dunta Robinson enter free agency. Thomas is also instinctive and athletic enough to help at corner or safety and could contribute immediately.
21. Cincinnati Bengals
DRE-OLB Everson Griffen* — USC
The Bengals have a Trojan look, with Keith Rivers and Rey Maualuga manning the middle and Frostee Rucker coming off the bench. Antwan Odom is coming off a serious season-ending Achilles injury and may need to be upgraded. Griffen also gives the Bengals more flexibility to transition to "30" looks — something Mike Zimmer dabbled with a year ago.
22. New England Patriots
DE Jared Odrick — Penn State
Trading Richard Seymour to Oakland and letting Jarvis Green go to Denver in free agency created a void at right defensive end, where Odrick would ideally fit in the Patriots' "30" look. His versatility would be attractive to a defensive mastermind.
23. Green Bay Packers
OT Anthony Davis* — Rutgers
Mike McCarthy was able to adapt the offense last season and allow Aaron Rodgers to get rid of the ball more quickly, but a strong need still remains for edge help, with Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher both on the wrong side of 30 and showing signs of wearing down. GM Ted Thompson has shown he will take some chances on players with character flaws.
24. Philadelphia Eagles
WLB Sean Weatherspoon — Missouri
The Eagles were plagued by injuries at the LB position and are in need of more depth at the position, as they wore down defensively late in 2009. Weatherspoon brings the versatility to play multiple positions and the range highly desired in Sean McDermott's defense.
25. Baltimore Ravens
NT Dan Williams — Tennessee
With Kelly Gregg aging and the Ravens losing Justin Bannan to the Broncos in free agency, Greg Mattison could use more help in his defensive line rotation. Williams is ideally suited for the Ravens' movement front and could be too difficult to pass up despite more pressing concerns at cornerback.
26. Arizona Cardinals
WR Demaryius Thomas* — Georgia Tech
After shipping off Anquan Boldin to Baltimore and losing Kurt Warner to retirement, the Cardinals could use another physical, run-after-the-catch receiver to alleviate pressure on Matt Leinart or Derek Anderson.
27. Dallas Cowboys
CB Patrick Robinson — Florida State
With one of the deepest rosters in football, Jerry Jones can afford to draft the best available player as opposed to filling a need and could go any number of ways, but Robinson has the size and man-cover skills Wade Phillips desires.
28. San Diego Chargers
CB Devin McCourty — Rutgers
Despite a glaring need for a bell-cow back, where Fresno State's Ryan Mathews could look appealing, the Chargers have a considerable need to fill at cornerback after dealing Antonio Cromartie to the Jets, and McCourty's toughness and special-teams ability should be attractive to A.J. Smith.
29. New York Jets
OT Vladimir Ducasse — Massachusetts
The Jets have one of the best offensive lines in football, but ORT Damien Woody and OLG Alan Faneca are not getting any younger, and Ducasse could greatly benefit from being groomed in their presence.
30. Minnesota Vikings
CB Kyle Wilson — Boise State
Cedric Griffin and Antoine Winfield are both coming off injury-riddled seasons, and Wilson fits a similar mold as a feisty, physical competitor and could help in nickel situations.
31. Indianapolis Colts
C Maurkice Pouncey* — Florida
Jeff Saturday is not getting any younger, and the Colts need to get bigger in the trenches if they want to run the ball with more success. Pouncey has the girth to match big-on-big and handle the space eaters who are becoming more common in AFC fronts.
32. New Orleans Saints
DE Jason Pierre-Paul* — South Florida
The Saints need to replace the pass rush they lost after cutting Charles Grant and could be very tempted by the raw physical tools of Pierre-Paul if he happens to slide to the Super Bowl champs, as he potentially could.
For the most authoritative NFL draft news and free-agency analysis, visit ProFootballWeekly.com.