Hello fellow Broncos fans!
This is my first and official mock draft for the first round of 2009. I have kind of sat back and watched the rest, absorbed info, researched for myself, and now I think I'm ready to go all in. This mock is set up how I think the draft will actually play out, minus some likely position swapping. I may not like a few picks, but I'm trying to win the Draftivius here! I also tried, as much as I was able, to lose myself in the pick I was making at the time, in order to make it as close to the real thing as possible. GMs, after all, don't have the luxury of 3rd-person perspective, let alone 3rd-person omnipotent perspective. So, enjoy or hate; I don't care!
This will go in two installments, both of which are to be considered my official entry into the Draftivius contest. I am just too long-winded for one post.
Pick #1: Detroit Lions
Jason Smith, OT, Baylor
Well, this has been debated endlessly, and at the end of the day I think that the post-Matt Millen era starts out right and a QB is not taken 1st overall with a career completion percentage under 60% and who isn't wildly inconsistent. Of course the front office would never say this, but this year should be counted as a wash QB-wise, the other glaring positions of need should be addressed (which are all over on an 0-16 team), and QB should be cherry-picked from next year's stellar crop with what is almost sure to be a high pick.
Top passes: Matthew Stafford, Aaron Curry, Eugene Monroe. I think the very idea of taking an OLB first overall on a team with such massive holes everywhere on the roster is simple lunacy. This is no knock on Aaron Curry-- he would surely improve the Lions, and right now. However, a playoff team starts with a solid QB, and a solid QB absolutely must have a solid line. Eugene Monroe is a great player, but needs to be in a place where he can slide to either tackle position, and as much as they reached for him last year, Gosder Cherlius was respectable last year at RT.
Pick #2: St. Louis Rams
Eugene Monroe, OT, Virginia
St. Louis is a team that, with this pick and a good second-round selection, could surprise everyone. More to the point, they could live up to their potential. Monroe is a beast who will fill the hole left by Orlando Pace and can play either tackle position, which is just the kind of flexibility the Rams need. Also, this means that Steven Jackson can FINALLY see some holes open up and no more 8-man fronts, which means less trying to make lemonade out of lemons, which means fewer groin injuries.
Top passes: Michael Crabtree. 1000 "Whose Line is it Anyway?" points to whomever can name the Rams starting WRs today. True, this is a glaring area of need, and I fully expect the Rams to address this with their second-round pick. However, WRs often fall on the first day, and 2nd overall is just too high to take a guy with Crabtree's question marks, despite his tantalizing talent. The class is deep; they can last until next round.
Pick #3: Kansas City Chiefs
Aaron Curry, OLB, Wake Forest
This, as well as the Rams selection, is arguably the biggest no-brainer in the draft. If Curry is available at #3, the Chiefs will take him. Trust me, I'm not looking forward to that twice a year. But, I will enjoy watching him make mincemeat out of JaMarcus Russell twice a year. This guy is a gem, a once-in-a-decade talent that any team would love to have. The Chiefs will instantly improve with him-- God knows their defense could hardly get worse.
Top pass: Brian Orakpo. This is the only player making any pass at being taken instead of Curry, and mostly because Demarcus Ware single-handedly doubled the sack total for the entire Chiefs team last year. True, it's a huge area of need. That's why they're picking #3 overall. But you don't pass up on a talent like Curry to get a somewhat unpolished guy who is one thing and one thing only.
Pick #4: Seattle Seahawks
Mark Sanchez, QB, USC
Rationale: This pick is intriguing. Early mocks had the Seahawks nearly unanimously picking Crabtree here. Of course, that was pre-Houshmandzadeh and pre-Crabtree's-ankle. Now, their WR corps is at least serviceable... until Branch gets injured in preseason. This is a pick that few other pundits have on their board, but I see it as a great selection. Sanchez is an absolutely perfect fit for the Seahawks, because he is a West Coast passer through and through and he will get at least a year's worth of seasoning behind Hasselbeck and Seneca Wallace, which negates the major knock against him of only having one year as a starter. It might hurt to use pick #4 on a backup, but that will only be for a year or two at the most.
Top passes: Michael Oher, Michael Crabtree. Oher was far and away the top pass here. Walter Jones is 35 and has a bum knee, and you may have noticed that all 8 preseason starters last year were on IR by the end of the year. The Seahawks need a left tackle. However, tackles come along every year and perfect QB fits do not, especially ones you have the luxury of grooming. Crabtree is still a consideration at this spot, but I can't see management pulling the trigger on him here after paying out big for Housh.
Pick #5: Cleveland Browns
Brian Orakpo, DE/OLB, Texas
An outside pass rush is far and away the Browns' top priority, especially with Kamerion Wimbley (2006, #13 overall) disappointing after his rookie season. Orakpo is slightly unpolished, but he is too good of a talent to pass up at this position.
Top passes: Michael Crabtree, Malcolm Jenkins. The Browns WR situation is looking worse by the minute, with Stallworth likely going to the big house and Edwards either being shipped out of town or taking up a career as one of those carnival bean-bag-toss boards (think about it, you'll get it...). Crabtree, however, would only ensure Edwards' departure. They need a solid #2 WR, not #1 competition. Jenkins is worth consideration here because of the abysmal state of the Browns' secondary last year. However, #5 is likely too high for him and a good pass rush will do wonders for a secondary's stats.
Pick #6: Cincinnati Bengals
Michael Oher, OT, Ole Miss
The Bengals need pass protection and they need it yesterday. Stacy Andrews is gone, Levi Jones is unreliable at this stage in his career, and the line was atrocious last year, giving up 51 sacks. Carson Palmer IS that team right now. If they want to give Cedric Benson a fighting chance (and count me among those who do), they need pass protection to open up the running game and protect their franchise QB.
Top passes: Michael Crabtree, Andre Smith. I do not buy that Smith's actual draft stock is rising after seeing it plummet post-Combine. His media draft stock is, but that is a far cry from what GMs are willing to do. He is boom-or-bust at this point, and should not be on any rebuilding team's list. Plus, Oher has a nasty streak that should satisfy Marvin Lewis' penchant for drama. With the loss of Housh the Bengals WR corps is in dire straits (Coles is on the downswing), but as with all the above there is no need to reach for any WR in this year's crop.
Pick #7: Oakland Raiders
Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech
Unless you're Al Davis. Actually, this wouldn't be reaching at all for Crabtree here, I just couldn't resist a dig at everyone's favorite alien life form. In fact, this would be a rare moment of non-senility. And, it would satisfy Davis' wet dreams of a superstar RB, QB, and WR. At least, superstar in his wet dreams, which consist mostly of hype and Roswell scientists.
Top pass: B. J. Raji. We all know the Raiders need a dominant DT like Al Davis needs to contact the mothership. But, it's Al Davis. And that's where I'll leave it. God, that was fun.
Pick #8: Jacksonville Jaguars
B.J. Raji, DT, Boston College
I hate myself and am a masochist. That's the only reason I can come up with. Trust me, you don't want to know the lengths to which I would go to see Raji fall to us at #12, and the fact that an increasing number of pundits have just that scenario occurring is just plain mean. Seriously, it's torture. It's like the cheerleader who strips for you and then tells you you can't touch because she's saving herself for marriage, when all along you know she puts out for the quarterback. Still, I have to face facts: the Jags' run defense was awful last year after Marcus Stroud left, and since that is their identity they absolutely must fix that and NOW. Even if Raji lasts past 8, he won't last past 9. The drug rumors are just rumors, and GMs know that. This is a must-pick.
Top passes: Jeremy Maclin. Even this is stretching it. With Crabtree off the board, Maclin is the next best thing at a position currently held down by Dennis Northcutt. But look at the Jags' history of first-round WRs, and you'll see why they will be gun-shy, especially since this is simply too high for Maclin.
Pick #9: Green Bay Packers
Everette Brown, DE, Florida State
The Packers are likely screaming their heads off that they can't have Raji, because it's arguable he is needed here even more than in Jacksonville. Anyone feel like going back in time and intentionally throwing a game to move up a spot or two? Still, their most glaring area of pressing need is for an outside rush linebacker/defensive end hybrid to start the 3-4 rebuilding process. Brown, while there might be some concerns about the Florida State curse (Jamal Reynolds), is considered the consensus #2 at the pass rush DE/OLB position and is prototypical for the 3-4.
Top passes: Chris "Beanie" Wells, Malcolm Jenkins. I was against resigning Ryan Grant, I have always been against it, and I will always be against it. The Packers need a reliable workhorse back, but this is way too high for Wells and Moreno just isn't their style. Jenkins is the most likely alternative, since Woodson and Harris are both on the decline. However, I maintain that both have at least two more solid years left before they become a liability, and Jenkins is a combo DB who might be better at safety in GB's system, where there is no need.
Pick #10: San Francisco 49ers
Matthew Stafford, QB, Georgia
So far, this was the hardest pick to select. I take it as a given that the 49ers front office thinks there is something to be had still with Shaun Hill and/or Alex Smith. So why take another QB with a top-ten pick? Because for one, he is incredible value at this slot; for two, he can avoid all the mistakes they made with Smith by rushing him in; and for three, there just isn't anyone left on the board at a screaming position of need.
Top pass: Aaron Maybin, Andre Smith, Jeremy Maclin. Maybin would be a good fit for the 49ers, and would honestly be just as good of a pick as Stafford. I think the fan base will get to the management here, however. Smith would be going to a good situation here, because he would have to fight for a starting job (vs. Marvel Smith and Barry Sims), which could motivate him to play to his potential. This is where I see the management going if they don't pull the trigger on Stafford. Maclin is worth consideration here because he is the top WR on the board at a position of dire need, but when was the last time you remember the Niners drafting a WR with a top ten pick?
Pick #11: Buffalo Bills
Andre Smith, OT, Alabama
Until the Jason Peters trade, this was Aaron Maybin, hands down. Now, with Smith still on the board, and the need for a quality lineman high on the board without being a rebuilding project, this should be a no-brainer. Smith plays very well, despite what his Combine and workout performance might suggest. This is a pretty good, but not quite ideal, situation for him to be in and could be a major coup if he plays as he can.
Top pass: Aaron Maybin. A near-perfect fit, an area of need, and value at the position. Hard to pass that up. Still, if Smith is still on the board, I think it will be even harder to pass him up. BTW, do not under any circumstances think the Bills will take Brandon Pettigrew here. Way too early, and way too deep of a draft class to go reaching like that.
Pick #12: Denver Broncos
Really, I shouldn't have to justify this if the scenario plays out. Jenkins is considered a consensus upper-end top-ten pick, he is versatile (which is the mantra of the Patriot Way), he plays much better than his measurables indicate (trust me, I'm an Illini fan), and we are in need at both positions he would fill. Dawkins and Hill, while great stopgaps, are stopgaps nonetheless, and I hope to God we are not picking high enough next year to where Taylor Mays is a serious consideration, so this should be addressed now rather than later. Honestly, this is like getting two for the price of one, since I fully believe that Jenkins can play either CB or FS with aplomb, and will benefit immensely from being able to adjust to the speed of the game for a year. Meanwhile, we garner quality depth for this year at fantastic value.
Top passes: Rey Maualuga, Tyson Jackson. I don't put Moreno in this category because I have since slid to the opinion that he would be best picked up at #18. Maualuga is a special talent, but is polarizing. Is he only a two-down player? Is he unreliable when the drag-down and not the big hit is required? Exactly how is he in pass coverage? How much did he benefit from an outstanding supporting cast at USC? I've always been of the opinion that #12 is too early for Maualuga, and I stand by that especially in light of our current lineup: Boss Bailey, Andra Davis, and Spencer Larsen. None of them are world-changers, but they are all very serviceable. I just don't think we need a Demeco Ryans or Lofa Totapu-type in the middle. Tyson Jackson's value to me is due more to supply and demand than pure talent. However, with Jenkins available at 12 there is no way to justify taking Jackson instead.
Pick #13: Washington Redskins
Robert Ayers, DE, Tennessee
I have absolutely no idea. Honestly, anything could happen. The general consensus picks are some sort of OT--but all the ones worth having at this point are off the board--a true 4-3 OLB--but I simply cannot see Cushing going to the Skins--or a pass-rushing DE. Of course, this is the dilemma. In that category (in a true 4-3), there is Orakpo and that is arguably the end of the first-round talent. Maybin is much more of a 3-4 DE/OLB hybrid, and as such is a poor fit for the Skins despite his superior production at Penn State. This is probably a bit too high for Ayers to go, but apart from trading down, I don't see the Redskins able to go any other direction than this if the scenario holds true. Still, it's not a bad pick. While he has some skill and technique to learn still, Ayers has more than enough physical tools to be a quarterback terror. With Haynesworth drawing double teams, he just might be able to be so this year.
Top passes: Aaron Maybin, Brian Cushing
Pick #14: New Orleans Saints
Brian Cushing, OLB, USC
I am starting to see exactly what bizarre situations the Broncos' two picks bracket. This would be the most interesting stretch of the first round without my favorite team having two picks. If Jenkins is available here, he will be gone and fast. We took him, though, so now the Saints have the unenviable situation of the largest position of need (CB) being absolutely flat at #14. The Saints' linebacker corps is getting older by the minute, and while they are respectable now they are one injury or down season away from disaster. Cushing provides them with a stellar talent who can do it all and is the smartest pick here.
Top passes: Vontae Davis, Chris "Beanie" Wells. Way too early for a boom or bust like Davis, and totally wrong situation for him. The Saints need another RB, and he's got to be a tough up-the-gut runner like Wells, not a lateral guy like Moreno. They've already got their dancer behind the line. There is strong opportunity to fill this slot later, though, and Wells comes with questions of his own (i.e., durability, ability to cash in on potential).
Pick #15: Houston Texans
Vontae Davis, CB, Illinois
Did I say that it was too early for him? Yes, but I still think this is when he'll go. The Texans front office is not afraid to make picks that make others scratch their heads (i.e., Mario Williams), so that won't be a hindrance. They already have an elite corner in Dunta Robinson, so there would be no need to throw Davis in headfirst (like there would be in New Orleans). Plus, I just have a great feeling about Davis' ability to succeed in the NFL (maybe it's only the Illini fan in me, although I thought Mendenhall was a 2nd round talent at best last year). I think the Texans will agree with me.
Top passes: Clay Matthews, Aaron Maybin, Chris "Beanie" Wells. I've got to say, I don't understand the fascination with Matthews here on MHR. This is a big reach for him in terms of draft value (which is determined by public opinion and perception of likelihood of others' moves), and OLB just isn't that big of a need to warrant it. Maybin is a better athlete, but he is a pure pass rusher, and that is not what the Texans need with Williams and now Antonio Smith already on the roster. Wells is intriguing here, but I don't see any precendent for a first-round RB on the heels of a successful second-round rookie when the defense was so obviously so wrong. Don't get me wrong-- I don't think the Texans FO will do this, but if I were in charge I would try like hell to trade down and if I couldn't I would snag Wells this year and hope for a CB next year. Moreno just isn't a good fit for the Texans, period.
Pick #16: San Diego Chargers
Tyson Jackson, DE, LSU
If he's here on the board when the Bolts are picking, you can bet that they will sweep him up regardless of who else is there (Maualuga included). He is the perfect intersection of need, talent, and value here. There are serious problems to be had on the OL, but there is no one worth taking at this spot. Olshansky's decline and departure last year exposed a major hole at the end position, and Jackson has the strength to clog running lanes and/or occupy blockers to open up holes for Merriman to blow through. Yes, it will suck meeting him twice a year. But it's an ideal situation for SD, and they will not pass on it.
Top passes: Rey Maualuga, Eben Britton. Wells/Moreno is not an option here, as picking a top RB right after restructuring LT's contract is a Cutler situation waiting to happen. ReyRey is a good value here, and would please the hometown crowd, but Jackson is a position of bigger need. Britton is not good enough for here, but it's close.
Pick #17: New York Jets
Jeremy Maclin, WR, Missouri
Many pundits have the Jets taking a QB here. If Stafford or Sanchez are here, I think they will. They absolutely will not take Josh Freeman here. Not if they have any sense, at least. They have a D that at worst is mediocre with promise (especially with the addition of Rex Ryan), so that is not an area of need. The O-line is solid, and Kellen Clemens hasn't really had a chance to fully explore his potential with a solid line and running game. A key to that experiment is to give him someone to throw to. At this slot, Maclin is solid value and would allow Jerricho Cotchery to slide to a #2 position, which is what he is better suited for.
Top passes: Knowshon Moreno, Chris "Beanie" Wells, Josh Freeman. More and more pundits have the Jets taking an RB here. I can sympathize, with Thomas Jones getting older and a solid line able to make the most of a stud RB like Moreno or Wells. I think that Wells would be a better fit because Leon Washington is a lateral-quick player and a big, powerful runner would be good even to spell Jones. I could see an RB here, but Maclin is a superior talent at a position of greater need.
Pick #18: Denver Broncos
This probably seems like way too late for him to go, but think about it some more. First of all, consider who else higher up he would be a good fit for when his position is the one of highest need. Also, he is currently sitting right at the edge of the top 15/top 20 line in most mock drafts, so this is not out of the realm of possibility. There is no doubt that if he falls to us at 18, we will almost certainly take him. And I say this as a Knowshon Moreno devotee, so that pains me. Still, the MO of this mock is what will happen, rather than what I would like to see. And the more I see, the less I think that McX will go with a stud RB. Maybin is a prototypical 3-4 hybrid and a pass-rushing monster. Doom and Moss are shifting their assignments, which I think will increase their production, but that is by no means a guarantee. I actually like our OLB corps a lot right now, and Maybin would in a worst-case scenario give us fantastic depth at this crucial position or perhaps provide us with a situational pass-rushing DE.
Top passes: Knowshon Moreno, Rey Maualuga. I am not a ReyRey devotee. There, I said it. See my explanation at pick #12. I'll also say further that I think we can get solid value out of middle-round MLBs to make our corps respectable in the meantime, and for next year I am high on Brandon Spikes. Moreno, I think, if it were up to me, I would still take at this spot even if Maybin was available, mostly because I am feeling pretty good about our OLBs this year whereas I think we need serious help at RB. I've detailed my argument for this in another post, so I won't bother repeating it.
The rest of the draft will come soon (hopefully tomorrow or the day after), so keep in touch. If you all find the explanations to be just too much, let me know in the comments and I will follow the KISS mantra in part 2.
Edit: the second half of the draft is now up. See it here.