Now that professional football's most irrelevant event (also known as the Pro Bowl, although I'm willing to listen to arguments claiming the Super Bowl tops the list) has come and gone, we can finally focus all of our attention on the NFL draft. We're already seeing some wild fluctuation in player value (hello, Brady Quinn) and with the combine just around the corner, expect much more to change in the days and weeks to come. So with the usual caveats, let's delve into the mock draft mire once again as we release Version 2.0.
x -- still to be determined by coin flip
+ -- underclassman
1. Oakland Raiders (2-14)
+ JaMarcus Russell, QB, LSU
Russell remains the pick at number one. There have been whispers that Oakland could play the best available card and choose Calvin Johnson instead. But at the end of the day, I'm convinced the Raiders will make Russell a very rich man. He possesses the highest upside of any quarterback in this draft and we all know how much the Raiders love big-armed QBs. The question remains; will Oakland ruin Russell's career before it even begins?
2. Detroit Lions (3-13)
Joe Thomas, OT, Wisconsin
My, how things have changed for Brady Quinn. Rewind to the final week of the NFL's regular season. Pundits were wondering whether the Lions should tank their final game to ensure the number one spot and a chance to select Notre Dame's signal-caller. Then Quinn and the Irish get pounded by Russell's Tigers and now scouts are calling Brady one of the draft's most overrated prospects (and since I can't pass on a chance to pat myself on the back, let me add that I've been saying the same thing for months now). Anyway, now it looks like Quinn could be poised for a free fall ala Aaron Rodgers circa 2005. Don't believe me? Check out the teams following Detroit? Who's going to take a sliding QB prospect if the Lions don't? This could be the story of the draft. At any rate, the Lions go the safe (and smart) route, selecting Joe Thomas to anchor their O-Line for the next decade.
3. x-Cleveland Browns (4-12)
+ Adrian Peterson, RB, Oklahoma
I fully expect Peterson to leave scouts salivating at the combine. I don't care if he performs or waits until OU's pro day, one look at his chiseled physique will elicit enough man crushes to fill a Harlequin romance novel penned by John Amaechi. Okay, that was a cheap shot (and about a week late). My bad.
4. x-Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-12)
+ Calvin Johnson, WR, Georgia Tech
If Johnson fall to the Bucs at four, Jon Gruden (and Chris Simms) should throw an epic pirate party. Grog and galleons for everyone!
5. Arizona Cardinals (5-11)
Alan Branch, DT, Michigan
The Cards are desperate for a pass rush so this pick comes down to whether they want to generate pressure from the inside or outside. Branch, Gaines Adams and Jamaal Anderson are all in play here.
6. Washington Redskins (5-11)
+ Gaines Adams, DE, Georgia
'Skins need help getting to the quarterback, too, so Adams should fit the bill quite nicely.
7. Minnesota Vikings (6-10)
LaRon Landry, S, LSU
High for a safety, but Landry is as good as it gets and he fills a major need for the Vikes.
8. Houston Texans (6-10)
Amobi Okoye, DT, Louisville
You know what? I can live with this pick. Look, I hate picking a D-linemen four year in a row, too. But getting a 19 year old Tommie Harris sounds pretty good to me. And considering the Texans' infatuation with high character guys, you have to figure they'll fall in love with Okoye. Yes, they're desperate for playmakers on the offensive side of the ball, but unless they trade back (a definite possibility), it's just not going to happen in the first round.
9. Miami Dolphins (6-10)
+ Jamaal Anderson, DE, Arkansas
With Jason Taylor flirting with retirement (he won't) and the rest of the Dolphins' D filing for AARP, it's time for an injection of youth.
10. Atlanta (7-9)
+ Ted Ginn Jr., WR, Ohio State
Considering Bobby Petrino's offensive background, you'd have to think he'd sell his soul to field an offense featuring the speed of Ginn, Vick and Norwood. Wow. I'm not a Falcon (or Vick) fan, but even I'd LOVE to see that.
11. San Francisco 49ers (7-9)
+ Dwayne Jarrett, WR, USC
Yes, the 'Niners need big-time help on defense. And Adam Carricker would be awfully tough to pass up here. But I say San Fran learns from the Texans' mistake. They saw Houston neglect David Carr's supporting cast and they know what happened. So here you go, Alex Smith. You've got Jarret, you've got Frank Gore and you've got Vernon Davis. Go to work.
12. Buffalo Bills (7-9)
Adam Carriker, DE, Nebraska
If the Bills want to reach to fill a need, they can take Levi Brown. Remember, they did plenty of reaching last year. But I think Carricker is just too good to pass up.
13. St. Louis Rams (8-8)
+ Charles Johnson, DE, Georgia
Johnson and Leonard Little would be a wrecking crew on the Rams' artificial turf.
14. Carolina Panthers (8-8)
Levi Brown, OT, Penn State
A boring (but solid) pick that fills a need. Carolina's offensive line was a joke last year.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8)
+ Jarvis Moss, DE/OLB, Florida
To anyone who questions whether this is the right pick, I ask only that you go back and watch the tape of the national championship game. That's all.
16. Green Bay Packers (8-8)
+ Marshawn Lynch, RB, Cal
This pick is the equivalent of every ESPN expert predicting New Orleans to beat Chicago in the Super Bowl. Everyone, and I mean everyone, has had Lynch to the Packers from day one. It's just too obvious, isn't it?
17. Jacksonville Jaguars (8-8)
Brady Quinn, QB, Notre Dame
No, I didn't forget about him. This is where the free-fall stops. I know it seems unlikely now, but this guy is getting ripped to shreds. Of course, the tide could turn again if he falls into the "so blasted for being overrated that he's underrated" category. To be sure, there are teams with QB needs after Detroit. Heck, he could go to the Browns at number three. But he could just as easily slide to the Chiefs at twenty three. As for the Jags, Jack Del Rio has pissed off both Byron Leftwich and David Garrard, so he needs someone to quarterback his team.
18. Cincinnati Bengals (8-8)
Leon Hall, CB, Michigan
Deltha O'neal and Tory James were exposed as frauds this year, so it's time to bring in some help (preferably, of the non-criminal variety).
19. Tennessee Titans (8-8)
+ Sidney Rice, WR, South Carolina
Seems pretty apparent that this pick is a wide receiver. Rice, Jarrett (if he slips) and Robert Meachem would all be perfectly happy to hitch a ride on VY's coattails.
20. New York Giants (8-8)
+ Darrell Revis, CB, Pittsburgh
The Giants' secondary is a mess and it's time to retool. Revis would be a solid start and don't be surprised if he surpasses Hall as the number one CB on the board come draft day.
21. Denver Broncos (9-7)
+ Reggie Nelson, S, Florida
Still think the Cowboys are dying to get their hands on Nelson, so I still think a trade is exceedingly possible here.
22. Dallas Cowboys (9-7)
Paul Posluszny, LB, Penn State
If they can't nab Nelson, however, Posluszny would look good with a star on his helmet (if such a thing is actually possible). His draft stock will likely be determined by the status of his surgically repaired knee.
23. Kansas City Chiefs (9-7)
Deymeion Hughes, CB, Cal
K.C. is primed for a major fall. Look at their roster. They are old and slow. Pretty much every position but RB and TE is in play here.
24. New England Patriots (from Seattle)
Patrick Willis, ILB, Ole Miss
Best LB in the draft. A pure, instinctive football player who would be a great addition to the Pats, especially with Bruschi and Vrabel aging.
25. New York Jets (10-6)
Aaron Ross, CB, Texas
Gotta figure Mangini is perfectly happy to continue re-tooling his defense.
26. Philadelphia Eagles (10-6)
+ Lawrence Timmons, OLB, Florida State
Timmons is almost the anti-Willis. He's an athletic freak, but is he a football player? Wouldn't be surprised to see him move up 5 or 6 spots after he lights up the combine.
27. New Orleans Saints (10-6)
+ Robert Meachem, WR, Tennessee
I know the Saints' offense is loaded, but do you really think Mini-Martz will resist the urge to add yet another game-breaking weapon to his offense? Remember, Joe Horn is pretty much done.
28. New England Patriots (12-4)
LaMarr Woodley, DE/OLB, Michigan
I know it seems like WR is the way to go here, but after taking Chad Jackson last year and seeing Tom Brady turn Jabar Gaffney into Marvin Harrison, I seriously doubt the Patriots feel a burning need to spend another first round pick on a wideout.
29. Baltimore Ravens (13-3)
Dwayne Bowe, WR, LSU
With Derrick Mason and Mark Clayton, the Ravens can use some size at the WR position. Bowe certainly brings that.
30. San Diego Chargers (14-2)
+ Anthony Gonzalez, WR, Ohio State
Man, the Chargers would be bummed to see both Bowe and Meachem gone. But Gonzalez isn't a bad consolation prize. His key (like pretty much every other WR) will be what he runs in the 40. And by the way, for those wondering about my thoughts on the Schottenheimer firing: Yes, I think the Chargers will be just fine and probably better off come postseason play. It's a shame they didn't make this move sooner, but bring in a Ron Rivera or, my personal favorite, Mike Singletary and I think San Diego will be right back in the Super Bowl mix. Disregard everything, however, if Norv Turner is the pick.
31. Chicago Bears (13-3)
Arron Sears, OG, Tennessee
Hard to see something appetizing for Chicago here (besides a new quarterback, of course). So I think they'll keep building where it counts: in the trenches.
32. Indianapolis Colts (12-4)
Anthony Spencer, DE/OLB, Purdue
Another Indianapolis 'tweener. Hey, it worked for them this year, didn't it?