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Mock draft

Georgia Tech's Thomas climbs up draft boards

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Recent posts by Nolan Nawrocki

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By Nolan Nawrocki

With the draft 10 days away, teams are beginning to lock in on desired targets in the first round and deeply discussing ways to execute their strategies to achieve desired outcomes on Draft Day, with trade talk swirling heavily. The first round could be expected to be influenced heavily by trades, but with a policy of not projecting any trades, PFW takes a simple look at how the board could fall, with an increased emphasis on filling needs.

In the latest mock draft, PFW projects Taylor Mays and Bruce Campbell to both slide out of the first round. Meanwhile, Georgia Tech's Demaryius Thomas could be inching upward.

(Editor's note: Juniors are designated with an asterisk.)

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

With Marc Bulger out of the picture, the Rams' current starting quarterback is A.J. Feeley, who has yet to prove capable of holding a starter's job, even if he may be familiar with Pat Shurmur's offense. If St. Louis does not take Bradford in the first round, it will have to make sure it is either able to land a veteran or is prepared to draft a passer early in the second round who might or might not be ready on Day One to fill what remains the team's most pressing need and the biggest hindrance in Steve Spagnuolo's rebuilding project.

2. Detroit Lions
DT Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska

Jim Schwartz seeks strength in the middle of his defense so his linebackers can run freely and create plays. Suh possesses the strength to continue fortifying the middle.

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
DT Gerald McCoy, Oklahoma
*

With two failed first-round picks — Chris Hovan and Ryan Sims — manning the middle, the board could not fall any better for the draft's top interior pass rusher to still be available when they select.

4. Washington Redskins
OLT Russell Okung, Oklahoma State

While Trent Williams would fit better in Mike Shanahan's zone-slide protection scheme, the Redskins have enough problems in the locker room to clean up, with the disgruntled Albert Haynesworth not falling in line, and need to take the safest route. The selection of the first offensive tackle in the No. 4 spot could create a run of four tackles in the next five picks, with Al Davis remaining a wild card.

5. Kansas City Chiefs
OLT Bryan Bulaga, Iowa*

The Chiefs must find a way to keep Matt Cassel standing upright, and the addition of Bulaga will give them the flexibility to shuffle around some parts on the offensive line to create a strong pocket.

6. Seattle Seahawks
OLT Trent Williams, Oklahoma

The Seahawks have an extremely pressing need at left tackle, and Williams could thrive in Alex Gibbs' zone-blocking scheme and give Matt Hasselbeck's back a better chance of staying healthy.

7. Cleveland Browns
FS Eric Berry, Tennessee
*

The Browns caught the league by surprise in Eric Mangini's first season when they decided to repeatedly move back in the draft and stockpile picks. With 12 selections in this year's draft, they have more ammunition to strike, but they will need all of them and more, as big holes remain on the roster after shuttling off four former first-round picks (Kellen Winslow, Braylon Edwards, Kamerion Wimbley, Brady Quinn) in the past year.

8. Oakland Raiders
RB C.J. Spiller, Clemson

Al Davis loves speed and has shown a tendency to stockpile backs, and only two are currently on the roster. Little known in the 2006 draft was how enamored the maverick owner was with Reggie Bush. Plus, Bruce Campbell should still be available at No. 39.

9. Buffalo Bills
QB Jimmy Clausen, Notre Dame
*

Todd Collins, Alex Van Pelt, Doug Flutie, Rob Johnson, Drew Bledsoe, J.P. Losman, Kelly Holcomb, Trent Edwards, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Brian Brohm — all have struggled to replace the Hall of Fame production of Jim Kelly since he retired 13 years ago. A new regime has to consider making it a priority, especially after Clausen impressed at his pro day.

10. Jacksonville Jaguars
DE Derrick Morgan, Georgia Tech
*

With Aaron Kampman and Morgan coming off the edges, the Jaguars could consistently collapse the pocket and bring the type of edge energy their defense has lacked for too long.

11. Denver Broncos (from Bears)
OG Mike Iupati, Idaho

Josh McDaniels is not concerned about drafting players too early, especially when they have the rare ability to drive defenders into the ground and re-establish the line of scrimmage the way Iupati can.

12. Miami Dolphins
WR Demaryius Thomas, Georgia Tech*

The Dolphins lack playmakers, with a marginal cast of receiving talent, and need to find a way to support Chad Henne's growth in his second year as the starting quarterback. Bill Parcells can see that many of Thomas' drops are correctable.

13. San Francisco 49ers
ORT Anthony Davis, Rutgers*

If the Niners want to have a more aggressive run attack, they need to add more physical blockers to the line. Mike Singletary has shown he can manage undisciplined talent.

14. Seattle Seahawks (from Broncos)
FS Earl Thomas, Texas*

The Seahawks have a gaping hole in the middle of their defense and will struggle to find a back-half defender with Thomas' range outside of the first round.

15. New York Giants
DE Jason Pierre-Paul, South Florida*

One area the Giants have never shortchanged is their defensive line, which keyed their Super Bowl run in 2008. With Osi Umenyiora still disgruntled, the Giants have to think about how they will continue disrupting the quarterback.

16. Tennessee Titans
DE Sergio Kindle, Texas

The Titans could add another starter hailing from Texas with the selection of Kindle, who fills Jeff Fisher's most pressing need after the team lost Kyle Vanden Bosch in free agency.

17. San Francisco 49ers (from Panthers)
ILB Rolando McClain, Alabama*

Patrick Willis might be the best inside ’backer in football, but Takeo Spikes is not getting any younger. McClain could form a very solid tandem with Willis in the middle.

18. Pittsburgh Steelers
C Maurkice Pouncey, Florida*

The Steelers' interior offensive line remains a sore spot, and Pouncey provides the ability to match big-on-big in a black-and-blue division. Plus, he could contribute at guard or center.

19. Atlanta Falcons
DE Jerry Hughes, TCU

Hughes is drawing the most interest as a 3-4 rush linebacker, but he could bring great value to "40" front because of his pass-rush ability.

20. Houston Texans 
CB Joe Haden, Florida*

With Dunta Robinson moving on in free agency, the Texans would be fortunate to have their pick of the litter at the CB position. Although it might be unrealistic to find one this deep into the first round anyway, the cornerback crop lacks an elite, shutdown corner.

21. Cincinnati Bengals
TE Jermaine Gresham, Oklahoma*

A solid, all-around tight end strengthens the Bengals' rushing attack and passing game and would be a very welcome addition for Carson Palmer.

22. New England Patriots
WR Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State*

Bill Belichick has a lot of experience dealing with extremely troubled talent such as Lawrence Taylor, Corey Dillon and Randy Moss, and he has demonstrated an ability to maximize their talents. With Wes Welker coming off injury and Moss showing signs of disgruntlement late in the season, the Patriots could sorely use more support for Tom Brady.

23. Green Bay Packers
OLB Brandon Graham, Michigan

Graham has the power and leverage that have fit so well for Dom Capers' 3-4 defense in previous stops and would allow the defense to take another big step in its second season under Capers.

24. Philadelphia Eagles
CB Kareem Jackson, Alabama*

Asante Samuel showed too many lapses last season, and the Eagles have little depth after Ellis Hobbs, who could be more ideally suited in a No. 3 role.

25. Baltimore Ravens
CB Kyle Wilson, Boise State

The Ravens' current cornerback situation is thin, with no greater need, and Wilson can play the physical press-and-trail coverage frequently employed by the club.

26. Arizona Cardinals
ILB Sean Weatherspoon, Missouri

The loss of Karlos Dansby to the Dolphins created a big void in the middle of the Cardinals' defense that still has not been filled and has left aged vagabond Paris Lenon currently holding a starting spot.

27. Dallas Cowboys
OT-OG Vladimir Ducasse, Massachusetts

With Flozell Adams having been released, Doug Free is slated to take over, but he still very much remains a work in progress. Besides, with every other starter on the wrong side of 30, the Cowboys need to think about bolstering the offensive line.

28. San Diego Chargers
NT Dan Williams, Tennessee

Losing Jamal Williams was a big blow to the Chargers' defense. If two defensive tackles come off the board in the first three picks, it could drive up the value of the third defensive tackle, and Williams might not last this long, even if nose tackles who do not rush the passer have more limited value.

29. New York Jets
DRE Jared Odrick, Penn State

Marques Douglas remains unsigned, and Mike DeVito is penciled in as a starter on the right side of the line. Although DeVito has been serviceable, Rex Ryan likes to use a healthy rotation to liven up his pass rush, and Odrick could bring versatility to his odd front.

30. Minnesota Vikings
QB Tim Tebow, Florida

Without Brett Favre, the Vikings have some options but lack a proven, long-term franchise-type quarterback. With Favre expected to return for at least another season, it could offer a ripe learning environment for Tebow.

31. Indianapolis Colts
OLT-OLG Rodger Saffold, Indiana

With Peyton Manning expected to become the game's highest-paid player in football in short order, Bill Polian has to consider investing more heavily in protecting Manning.

32. New Orleans Saints
DLE Tyson Alualu, California

The addition of Alex Brown may have alleviated the Saints' concerns about their defensive line, with Charles Grant having been cut, but Alualu could bring long-term value and give creative defensive coordinator Gregg Williams another versatile chess piece to utilize.

 

Nolan Nawrocki will answer selected questions from readers each Tuesday leading up to the draft. 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.

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