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Recent posts by Nolan Nawrocki
The Donovan McNabb trade shook up the football world on Sunday night, perhaps tipping the balance of power in the NFC East to Washington, which now has the most proven and established quarterback to couple with a brilliant mastermind offensive coach. The move not only could define the careers of Mike Shanahan and Andy Reid, it changed the outlook of the draft needs for this mock draft and prominently placed the draft's most high-profile player into PFW's early projections for the first time. Welcome to the first round, Tim Tebow — you owe Donovan McNabb your thanks.
(Editor's note: Juniors are designated with an asterisk.)
1. St. Louis Rams
QB Sam Bradford, Oklahoma*
With the Redskins landing one of the league's top quarterbacks for a relatively low price, the Redskins have removed themselves from the QB derby and took away any hopes the Rams may have had of landing a windfall at the top of this year's draft. If it was not safe to say before, simply because of the prospect of a trade, it now can be said with authority — with the first overall selection in this year's draft, the Rams will select Sam Bradford.
2. Detroit Lions
OLT Russell Okung, Oklahoma State
If you have a franchise quarterback, as the Lions clearly believe they do and Matt Stafford showed promising signs of becoming in his first year, you must be able to protect him. Okung is not the most talented tackle in the draft, but he may well be the safest of the lot and would fill a pressing need, with Jeff Backus having long struggled to handle the hot corner.
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
DT Gerald McCoy, Oklahoma*
The Buccaneers have not been the same defensively since Warren Sapp departed. McCoy could bring the same type of relentless pass rush as Sapp once created, and become a pillar of the Buccaneers' franchise for many years to come. The premium on defensive linemen comes in rushing the passer, not defending the run.
4. Washington Redskins
OLT Bryan Bulaga, Iowa*
With Donovan McNabb in tow, protection now must become a priority. While GM Bruce Allen still may have some tricks up his sleeve that could further affect the Redskins' Draft Day decision, Bulaga is a very safe pick around whom to build the offensive line if the Redskins do not address the position prior to the draft.
5. Kansas City Chiefs
NT Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska
How could Suh last until the fifth pick? No way, nohow — in the words of Lee Corso, not so fast, my friend. Glenn Dorsey slid to the very same slot three years ago for the exact same reason. Many NFL GMs do not value defending the run as much as they do rushing or protecting the passer, and despite Suh's 12 sacks, his greatest strength is stacking the line, not penetrating it. Matt Cassel is the 15th-highest-paid quarterback in the league, and he could easily prove to be better under the direction of Charlie Weis, but right or wrong, GM Scott Pioli's career in Kansas City will likely be defined by his decision to hitch his wagon to Cassel. And in order for Cassel to perform up to his ability, he needs much better protection than he had a year ago. Expect the Chiefs to seriously entertain offers to deal down, with the Seahawks potentially not out of the quarterback market, and the Chiefs standing to be a beneficiary of the work their new offensive coordinator, Charlie Weis, did with Jimmy Clausen at Notre Dame. Remember, the Chiefs are sitting in the same five-spot that another Belichick prodigy, Eric Mangini, held a year ago before trading out. If Pioli has to stay put, however, the premium placed on defensive linemen can be expected to prevail again. Despite finishing the season playing close to 290 pounds and being more ideally suited for a "40" front, as Dorsey is, Suh would be too talented to pass up.
6. Seattle Seahawks
OLT Trent Williams, Oklahoma
Williams could be considered closely by the Redskins and Chiefs — he's talented enough to warrant strong looks from the Lions — but having inherited cultures of losing programs in need of serious reshaping, Bruce Allen and Scott Pioli could have a difficult time guaranteeing nearly $30 million on a prospect known for his lazy ways at a blue-collar position. However, the Seahawks have a desperate need to fill, Alex Gibbs' zone-blocking scheme could not be better suited for Williams' talents, and a coach coming from the college ranks such as Pete Carroll might undervalue the importance of self-motivation after a big payday.
7. Cleveland Browns
FS Eric Berry, Tennessee*
The Browns addressed a need at the cornerback position with the acquisition of Sheldon Brown but still have a pressing concern at safety, where they do not currently have a solid starter on the roster and definitely do not have an impact type of playmaker.
8. Oakland Raiders
OLT Bruce Campbell, Maryland*
Anyone who has studied Campbell closely knows this pick defies all scouting logic, but it is what makes Al Davis so unusual and the Raiders so bad — his draft decisions not only devalue the importance of character and locker-room chemistry (as the selection of JaMarcus Russell best demonstrated), they place primary importance on the prospect of upside, of which Campbell would appear to possess too much for Davis to pass up.
9. Buffalo Bills
QB Jimmy Clausen, Notre Dame*
What Ralph Wilson wants, Ralph Wilson usually gets, and after failing to land Donovan McNabb, the Bills are still left with uncertainty at the QB position. Just as important as the QB position, if not more important in Buffalo, however, is the ability to support the quarterback, and the Bills could easily be more enticed by selecting a blind-side blocker or impressive playmaker who gives Trent Edwards a better chance to succeed.
10. Jacksonville Jaguars
DE Derrick Morgan, Georgia Tech*
GM Gene Smith quietly pieced together one of the best drafts in the NFL last season, if not hands down the best, and he did so not by hitting a single home run but by not striking out, batting four-for-four in the first three rounds and finding very capable producers in Rounds 4-7. Morgan may not provide the sizzle desired to be an elite sack artist, but together with Aaron Kampman, he could bring a relentless pass rush to a team that is sorely in need of more pressure. Year One of the Smith era brought new bookends on the offensive line. Year Two could bring a new look on the defensive edges.
11. Denver Broncos (from Bears)
OLG Mike Iupati, Idaho
Big, strong, physical and loaded with upside, Iupati could be the beneficiary of four offensive tackles fitting into the top 10, as he possesses the power to move defenders off the ball and establish the more dominating run game that Josh McDaniels seeks to establish.
12. Miami Dolphins
WR Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State*
The question of how much authority Bill Parcells has ceded to Jeff Ireland continues to swirl around the league. Ireland skewed toward taking chances last season with the selections of Vontae Davis, Pat White, Sean Smith and Patrick Turner. They clearly got bigger, especially at cornerback, where Davis and Smith combined for 25 starts as rookies, but how productive the class will turn out in three years remains up for debate. Parcells was one of four decision makers who consulted his owner about drafting Percy Harvin in the first round a year ago after he tested positive for marijuana at the Combine. Bryant's bad decisions cost his team more severely in college, as he was suspended for most of his final season. With a roster devoid of playmakers and the ability to make Bryant his personal project, Parcells, and Ireland, could be willing to take another swing for the fences.
13. San Francisco 49ers
OT Anthony Davis, Rutgers*
Davis may be best-suited to start his career on the right side, which could bode well for the Niners with Joe Staley capably handling the OLT position. While Davis could be a risky selection, the calming, demanding leadership of Mike Singletary could be just what Davis needs to thrive.
14. Seattle Seahawks (from Broncos)
RB C.J. Spiller, Clemson
Spiller never had the opportunity to play with Charlie Whitehurst, but if the sensational running back happens to last this long, he very realistically could have that chance, with Pete Carroll very familiar with the type of impact that a Reggie Bush-esque weapon can have on winning football games.
15. New York Giants
MLB Rolando McClain, Alabama*
Having to part ways with injury-prone Antonio Pierce was a double-edged sword for the Giants. It not only subtracted a productive tackler, it eliminated a very vocal, respected leader and defensive tempo setter. In McClain, the Giants could replace both on-field leadership and Pierce's production.
16. Tennessee Titans
DE Jason Pierre-Paul, South Florida*
The Titans lost Kyle Vanden Bosch to the Lions in free agency and have yet to re-sign the aging, injury-stricken Jevon Kearse. Pierre-Paul confirmed his status to many evaluators as the most athletic defensive end in the draft at his pro day and could be a very suitable replacement for "the Freak."
17. San Francisco 49ers (from Panthers)
CB Joe Haden, Florida*
With Nate Clements struggling last season, the Niners could give in to the temptation to address the position if they have their selection of cornerbacks, and Haden has proven most capable of stepping in immediately.
18. Pittsburgh Steelers
C Maurkice Pouncey, Florida*
The Steelers' offensive line has seldom been without a great pivot, and Pouncey is the type of steady contributor who could resurrect the sagging play of a once-proud unit.
19. Atlanta Falcons
DE Brandon Graham, Michigan
The ability to line up on the left or right side and leverage the run or heat up the edge makes Graham a very attractive option for the Falcons.
20. Houston Texans
CB Kyle Wilson, Boise State
With Dunta Robinson moving on, the Texans have a pressing need to fill, and Wilson fits the aggressive temperament of the Texans' secondary.
21. Cincinnati Bengals
TE Jermaine Gresham, Oklahoma
The Bengals need more production out of the TE position. Despite the Bengals having taken a chance on Chase Coffman a year ago, he is coming off injury and does not possess the downfield speed, pass-catching capabilities or all-around play of Gresham, who could give Carson Palmer much-needed relief as a pass catcher and blocker.
22. New England Patriots
FS Earl Thomas, Texas*
What better way to defend in a passing league than to load up the back end with two rangy safeties who can leverage the field. To stop high-octane passing games such as the Saints', Bill Belichick could greatly benefit from more deep-safety help.
23. Green Bay Packers
OLB Sergio Kindle, Texas
Brad Jones showed promise as a rookie coming off the edge, but he may be most ideally suited for nickel situations, not an every-down role. The Packers let Aaron Kampman escape in free agency, creating demand for another pass rusher opposite the emerging Clay Matthews.
24. Philadelphia Eagles
QB Tim Tebow, Florida
The careers of team president Joe Banner and GM Howie Roseman share some commonalities with Tebow's — a dogged determination defying the odds. As each day draws closer and NFL teams come to grips with the reality that is their NFL rosters, the value of quarterbacks in this draft continues to creep up, and by the time the draft kicks off in prime time, there is a very realistic chance of Tebow fitting into the first round. The Eagles had the deepest pool of talent at the QB position prior to dealing Donovan McNabb within the division and now have a vacancy with which to welcome Tebow with open arms. Banner's greatest strength has been preparing for the future, and if Kolb's contract can be extended now that McNabb is out of the picture, it will position the Eagles to deal him after developing Tebow for three years and give the Eagles another measure of protection, not to mention motivation for Kolb. Peria Jerry signed a five-year contract totaling $13.25 million in this slot a year ago, with a more realistic value of $10.35 million over five years given incentives. If the Tebow experiment does not work out, the Eagles might be able to justify a $2 million annual salary in jersey sales. And given time to work his magic, Andy Reid has the incubator to build Tebow into a winner.
25. Baltimore Ravens
WR Demaryius Thomas, Georgia Tech*
Derrick Mason is not getting any younger and is not more than a possession receiver at this stage of his career. Anquan Boldin can be outstanding but will earn his living working underneath on crossers in the short passing game. Thomas has the ability to take the top off a defense and could greatly complement Joe Flacco in his third year at the helm.
26. Arizona Cardinals
MLB Sean Weatherspoon, Missouri
Ken Whisenhunt's drafting philosophy was shaped in Pittsburgh, where they regularly reload by filling the greatest need. After Karlos Dansby departed for Miami, the Cards were left with a gaping hole in the middle of their defense, and Weatherspoon has the size-speed combination to make an impact.
27. Dallas Cowboys
FS Taylor Mays, USC
Would Taylor Mays really be any different from Ken Hamlin or Roy Williams? Not much, but that has not stopped Jerry Jones from continuing to take chances on straight-linish, heavy-hitting safeties, and the supersized Mays would appear to be the latest in a great line of misses.
28. San Diego Chargers
DT Dan Williams, Tennessee
Pressing concerns exist at cornerback and running back, but neither position is as valuable to the Chargers' philosophy as Jamal Williams was before he left town for the division-rival Broncos. Dan Williams could plug the gap.
29. New York Jets
DE Jared Odrick, Penn State
The Jets locked up Mike DeVito to a long-term extension last year, but he is most ideally suited for a rotation, not a full-time starting role, and the addition of Odrick could give the Jets much-needed depth at a position that could not be any more valuable in an odd front.
30. Minnesota Vikings
CB Kareem Jackson, Alabama*
The Vikings like big, physical cornerbacks who are willing to lay the lumber, and Jackson has the size, physicality and football intelligence to make an impact readily, which they may need with Antoine Winfield and Cedric Griffin coming off injuries.
31. Indianapolis Colts
OLG Rodger Saffold, Indiana
With most first-round offensive line talent wiped clean at this stage, the Colts may have to reach slightly at the end of the first round, but Bill Polian has never minded appearing to reach for talent as long as it pans out. His tendency to draft Midwestern Big Ten talent could hold true.
32. New Orleans Saints
DE Everson Griffen, USC*
The Saints need to focus on their front after cutting lose Charles Grant, and Griffen has the size and strength desired at the left defensive end position.
Nolan Nawrocki will answer selected questions from readers each Tuesday leading up to the draft, beginning April 13. Send your draft-related questions to Nawrocki at ASKquestions@pfwmedia.com.
For the most authoritative NFL draft news and free-agency analysis, visit ProFootballWeekly.com.