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BASN’s Early Mock Draft (Part Two)
PHILADELPHIA — Unlike many draft prognosticators who seem to just make their picks out of thin air, I like to wait until after attending the Senior Bowl, NFL Combine, talking with key NFL talent evaluators and letting Free Agency play out before making my picks.
In my opinion you cannot do a true “mock” until after these events, because only then you can get a good sense of how NFL talent evaluators are viewing prospects and have accurate team needs.
Today, we take a look at picks 17 through 32.
17. New York Jets â€” QB Mark Sanchez USC (Jr.)
Record: 9-7 | Needs: DE, WR, QB, G, RB
The Jets new head coach Rex Ryan is all about defense, but even he knows that the J-E-T-S need a triggerman to build around. Future Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre retired leaving inexperienced throwers Kellen Clemens and Brett Ratliff as Ryan’s only options. The Jets with their fans yelling and screaming at Radio City Music Hall will get their man as they select Sanchez (6-feet-3, 225) as Favre’s replacement. The All-PAC 10 junior eligible only started 16 games for USC, but he did lead them to back-to-back Rose Bowl wins. In his only full season as a starter in 2008, Sanchez led the Trojans to a 12-1 record displaying a good arm, excellent footwork, and mental toughness. The former USC star has great anticipation, accuracy and throws a good ball. In 2009 after coming back from a knee injury, Sanchez completed 214 of 366 passes for 3,207 yards and 41 touchdowns with 16 interceptions.
18. Chicago Bears â€” WR Percy Harvin, Florida (Jr.)
Record: 9-7 | Needs: QB, WR, OL, DT, S
The Bears continued to struggle offensively as they never really found a playmaker to replace departed receiver Bernard Berrian. Looking to score more touchdowns (only scored 42 in ’08) and take some pressure off of quarterback Kyle Orton and returner turned receiver Devin Hester, the Bears head coach Lovie Smith grabs college football’s version of Reggie Bush in mercurial Florida speedster Harvin (5-feet-11, 195, 4.36). The junior eligible from this year’s National Champs has dazzling talent where he can be used on the outside, in the slot, in the backfield, in the “Wildcat” and help out on special teams. Most dangerous in the open field, Harvin in three years with the Gators had 133 receptions for 1,929 yards and 13 touchdowns and 194 carries for 1,852 yards and 19 scores. Harvin amazingly scored at least once in 15 consecutive games, which was the longest streak in the nation. The only question mark about the diminutive receiver/running back is regarding whether he is durable enough to take an NFL pounding.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers â€” DE Tyson Jackson, LSU (Sr.)
Record: 9-7 | Needs: CB, RB, QB, LB
The Buccaneers are undergoing a huge makeover under the guidance of young defensive-minded head coach Raheem Morris. With veteran defensive end Kevin Carter leaving in free agency, the Bucs will look for another pass rusher. Jackson is at 6-feet-4, 295 is a stout two-way defensive end who can also slide inside if needed. Jackson has excellent size and strength at the point of attack plus has good enough quickness to shed blocks. However there have been questions regarding Jackson peaking earlier in his career and whether he is an underachiever. After exploding on the scene in 2006, producing a team-high 8.5 sacks for the Tigers, Jackson sack totals fell to 3.5 in ’07 and 4.5 in ’08. It will be interesting to see if Morris and his defensive coordinator Jim Bates can turn Jackson’s size and potential into being a solid pro at the next level.
20. Detroit Lions (from Dallas) â€” OT Michael Oher, Mississippi (Sr.)
Record: 0-16 | Needs: QB, OT, CB, S, DE
With the Lions already grabbing marquee quarterback Matthew Stafford with the first overall pick, they will then look to grab a protector for him with their second first rounder. By selecting Oher (6-feet-5, 309) the Lions can move veteran right tackle Jeff Backus and have their bookends for the future with the All-SEC pick and last year’s number one Gosder Cherilus. A reserved guy off the field, Oher (pronounced “Oar”) carries a nasty streak on the field. The Ole’ Miss standout can either out-quick or manhandle opponents as he has a great punch and decent footwork. The former Ole Miss star will need to continue to work hard in the pre-draft period as some scouts have worried about his technique and demeanor. At the Senior Bowl, Oher showed an ability to be a dominant run blocker, however he also showed that work needs to be done on his pass-blocking skills, not reaching for his opponent, and playing with leverage. The big natural right tackle was the subject of a book called the “Blind Side” in high school.
21. Philadelphia Eagles â€” Eben Britton, OT, Arizona (Jr.)
Record: 9-6-1 | Needs: OT, TE, RB, S, WR
I know you want a receiver here Birds fans, but given the Eagles track record and their need to replace stalwart bookend tackles Jon Runyan and William Thomas, a tackle will be this pick. Britton (6-feet-6, 310) has the skills to become an excellent NFL tackle, though some thought that he could have used another year in college to hone his skills. The Wildcats junior-eligible road grader uses his size, strength and athleticism to be a force on the edge. Britton started 37 straight games since starting as a freshman at Arizona, lining up at right tackle for the first 24 contests before shifting to left tackle in 2008. Britton is a high-character type and hard worker who was a team captain, but he was will need watch playing too upright and maintaining an aggressive attitude. With O-line guru Juan Castille pushing him look for this big athletic player to push disappointing ’06 pick Winston Justice and add depth to an area that Andy Reid always loves to build up.
22. Minnesota Vikings â€” WR Jeremy Maclin, Missouri (Jr.)
Record: 10-6 | Needs: QB, S, CB, WR
Everyone knows the Vikings and their offensive-minded head coach Brad Childress wanted another offensive weapon this off-season. The Vikes unsuccessfully tried to land T.J. Houshmandzadeh in free agency, so they will look to the draft to grab a play-making receiver to go with Bernard Berrian. Maclin (6-feet-1, 200, 4.38) is a straight burner, who is a homerun threat whenever he touches the ball. Though he has some work to do in terms of route running, the former All Big 12 player will be able to contribute right away in the return game, on trick plays (reverses/Wildcat/receiver passes), in the slot and on the outside. Maclin returned from a serious knee injury in 2006 to become one of the Big 12′s most explosive players over he past two seasons along with Texas Tech’s Michael Crabtree. In a spectacular 2008 campaign, Maclin had 102 catches for 1,260 yards and 13 touchdowns as a receiver and 306 rushing yards with 2 TDs. With an additional 270 yards on punt returns including one touchdown with an 11.7 average plus a 24-yard average and one touchdown on kickoffs.
23. N.E. Patriots â€” ILB James Laurinaitis, Ohio State (Sr.)
Record: 11-5 | Needs: LB, CB, TE, OL, RB
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is experiencing the retooling process of his former 3-time Super Bowl winning team. The Patriots are coming off an 11-5 non-playoff season and it is now time to start younger at key positions. The Patriots seem to have targeted the linebacker position as one that needs an upgrade this off-season with the trade of veteran Mike Vrabel and not re-signing future Hall of Famer Junior Seau. The continued overhaul of Belichick’s prized unit will continue with the Patriots selecting Ohio State’s big man in the middle, Jim Laurinaitis (6-feet-2, 240). The three-time All-American who has a trophy case full of awards from his intensity inspired play (Bronko Nagurski Award – ’06, Dick Butkus Award – ’07 and the Lott Trophy as best all-around defensive player in ’08) should be a natural fit in the Patriots attacking scheme. Laurinaitis is a smart and instinctive football player, who through film study always seems to be in the right position. Known for being the son of pro wrestling legend Joe “Road Warrior Animal” Laurinaitis, the younger “Animal” is a ferocious tackler and is always looking to deliver a blow. In his historic career college football career this perennial All Big 10 selection collected 366 tackles.
24. Atlanta Falcons â€” CB Vontae Davis, Illinois (Jr.)
Record: 11-5 | Needs: OT, LB, S, WR
The Falcons experienced a re-birth in 2008 as Rookie of the Year Matt Ryan led his team back from a disastrous 2007 season. However the Falcons will need to select more impact players in the 2009 NFL Draft as they will not be sneaking up on anyone this year. A high priority for Falcons head coach Mike Smith and GM Tom Dimitroff should be finding a replacement for CB Domonique Foxworth (Ravens) and a partner for former high draft pick Chris Houston. The selection of Davis (6-feet, 204, 4.42) seems like a nice fit for the Falcons as the supremely talented All Big 10 corner is an athletic, aggressive, and sticky cover-corner. Like his older brother, San Francisco 49ers tight end Vernon Davis, Vontae will need to be pushed in the NFL to live-up to his immense talent. Davis is a heavy hitting corner with big play ability, who plays like a shut down corner on the outside yet he is a dangerous weapon in the return game and likes to come up to lay a blow in the running game. A Day 1 starter in college, look for this early entry to have an immediate impact in the NFL. The only red flag that I see with Davis is off-field issues that led to two suspensions by Illinois head coach Ron Zook.
25. Miami Dolphins â€” OLB Larry English, Northern Illinois (Sr.)
Record: 11-5 | Needs: DE, WR, OL, LB
The Miami Dolphins were the NFL’s biggest turnaround story in ’08, but with the dawning of a new season they will need more weapons in the draft to stay in front of a tough AFC East division led by the Patriots. One thing is for certain, we know Dolphins top executive Bill Parcells likes to have tough aggressive linebackers. With veteran Joey Porter getting along in age, the Dolphins will add the versatile English (6-feet-2, 254, 4.76) to help out their pass rush. The MAC defensive player of the year the past two years is a high-motor player with an explosive first step that should help him make the transition from college football defensive end to NFL 3-4 outside linebacker. English with his superior straight-line speed totaled 23 sacks the past two years and he has been working hard on his agility to help him in pass coverage. At the Senior Bowl amongst bigger names, English overshadowed higher profile guys in practices and in the game. The main areas where English will need to improve are getting stronger at the point of attack and cutting down on his head faking when rushing the passer.
26. Baltimore Ravens â€” OLB Clay Matthews, OLB, Southern California
Record: 11-5 | Needs: CB, OL, LB, TE
The Ravens rode another stellar season from their defense (the NFL’s leader in takeaways with 34) all the way to the AFC Championship game. But with former Ravens defensive coordinator turned Jets head coach Rex Ryan pilfering their unit, the Ravens will look to replenish their defense in the draft. I see Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome finding OLB Bart Scott’s replacement with the selection of his former teammate Clay Matthews’ son, USC high-energy linebacker Clay 3rd (6-feet-3, 246, 4.76). An NFL legacy player — father, Clay Jr, was a linebacker with the Cleveland Browns; his uncle Bruce was a Hall of Fame offensive lineman; and his grandfather Clay Sr. was with the 49ers in the 1950s – this former walk-on became a force in the PAC 10 in 2008. A full-time starter for the first time last year, Matthews grew into a top caliber NFL prospect delivering 56 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss (3rd on team), and 4.5 sacks (2nd on team). NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said of Matthews, “What I would tell you (about Matthews) is he’s got a healthy chip on his shoulder. His dad, his uncle, his brother — everybody played big-time football and this kid didn’t get a scholarship offer to USC. He will outwork people”.
27. Indianapolis Colts â€” WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, Maryland (Jr.)
Record: 12-4 | Needs: WR, OL, RB, LB, CB
The Colts this off-season have witnessed the transition of future Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison as the team cut ties with the 14-year veteran this March. With a huge hole in their receiving core, Colts GM Bill Polian and new head coach Jim Caldwell will grab one this year’s top pass catchers in Heyward-Bey (6-feet-2, 206, 4.37). The junior-eligible has the rare combination of size, athleticism and speed to make an instant impact in the NFL. Though there were not many defenders in college that could stay with the big receiver, he will now have to learn the nuisances of the receiver position including route running to excel at the next level. Heyward-Bey ended his career ranked second on Maryland’s all-time list in receiving yards (2,089). The former Terrapin wowed everyone at the NFL Combine running the forty in a combine-high 4.30 seconds and looking fluid while showing consistent hands in receiver drills.
28. Philadelphia Eagles (from Panthers) â€” TE Brandon Pettigrew, Oklahoma State
Record: 9-6-1 | Needs: OT, TE, RB, S, WR
The Eagles need a franchise tight end to build around now that they have moved on from free agent LJ Smith. With third year player Brent Celek looking like their next receiving tight end (career-high 10 catches for 83 yards and two touchdowns in the NFC Championship game), the Eagles need a complimentary bigger blocking tight end. Pettigrew (6-feet-5, 257, 4.82) is a great blocker and is refining his raw receiving skills. He can handle all phases of in-line play required of a tight end including drive blocking on running plays and sneaking out to find the soft spot in zones on pass plays. As a pass catcher, Pettigrew has great quickness out of his stance, sure hands and can make the big play. Much like former Eagles first rounder Keith Jackson when he came out of college, Pettigrew may not have huge college numbers (in four years, he caught 112 passes for 1,450 yards and nine touchdowns) due to working in a running offense, but he is a talented prospect who is only going to get better in the NFL. Pettigrew had a solid Senior Bowl week where he clearly was the best tight end of a solid group (blocking, catching, and shielding off defenders). The former Oklahoma State Cowboys star is strong player as he produced 22 reps of 225 pounds at the NFL Combine.
29. New York Giants â€” CB D.J. Moore, Vanderbilt (Jr.)
Record: 12-4 | Needs: CB, S, WR, OT
The 2007 Super Bowl winners were solid once again on defense (allowed 292 yards per game), but there are some question marks in their secondary — recently cut safety Sammy Knight and CB Sam Madison. The G-Men routinely had problems containing pass plays down the field, which maybe attributed to injuries along their defensive front. However head coach Tom Coughlin in looking to get former first rounder Aaron Ross some help in the secondary, will select the playmaking Moore (5-feet-10, 184, 4.45) with the Giants’ first rounder. The versatile corner from Vandy has the athleticism and instincts to be a top-tier cornerback in any draft. Moore exploded onto the scene as a playmaker in ’07 with 83 tackles, six interceptions and an average of 25.7 yards on kickoff returns (had 100 yards in kickoff returns three times). In 2008, the tough junior-eligible had 5 INT’s and made plays on the offensive side of the ball too. Moore has great man-to-man coverage skill and is willing to help out in run support as shown by his 13 tackles versus ‘Bama in ’07. He is still a young player and has to mature as a player, but he has already showed a lock-down ability as a corner and is a game changer on defense and special teams.
30. Tennessee Titans â€” DT Peria Jerry Ole Miss (Sr.)
Record: 13-3 | Needs: WR, DT, CB, C
After winning an NFL-high 13 games in ’08, the Titans stumbled in the playoffs against the upstart Ravens. To make matters worse the Titans’ highly ranked defense (293.6 yards allowed – 3rd in the AFC) lost their main cog in free agent mammoth defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, who signed a $100 Million dollar deal with the Redskins. With Haynesworght fresh in their mind, Titans’ head coach Jeff Fisher and new defensive coordinator Chuck Cecil will use their number one pick on big run-stuffing big (6-feet-2, 300) defensive tackle Jerry. The All-SEC performer has been a riser in the draft process after a 2008 season that saw him SEC defender of the week four times and having a standout week at the Senior Bowl. The pocket-collapsing big man is very quick off the ball and at times is difficult to handle even by two O-linemen. Jerry can play one or two gap protection, but scouts are definitely watching his game tapes as he was a bit inconsistent at times during his Ole’ Miss career. Look for Jerry, an older age player at 24 years old, to be on the field early in his pro career.
31. Arizona Cardinals â€” CB Alphonso Smith, CB, Wake Forest (Sr.)
Record: 9-7 | Needs: OL, FS, RB, CB, DT
The NFC Champion Cardinals had a magical ride in ’08 going from a weak division champion to an ascending playoff tough squad who fought the eventual Super Bowl champion Steelers till the bitter end. However throughout the 2008 season, the Cardinals had problems on defense finishing with an NFL ranking of 19th in total defense during the regular season. Even with ’08 first rounder Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie already in place, the NFC Champs have to get better in coverage (allowed an average of 292.1 passing yards per game) so Smith (5-feet-9, 193, 4.45) will be their man. Though not the biggest corner in the draft, this All-ACC pick stands out due to his great instincts, quickness and agility. Smith is the NCAA’s all-time leader in interceptions with 21 career picks and he also returned a NCAA record four interceptions for touchdowns. Senior Bowl week was a special one for Smith as he clearly was the best corner in practices providing blanket coverage and fighting for every pass. Also can contribute on special teams by returning and covering kicks plus he even had 3 receptions on offense in the bowl win versus UConn in 2007.
32. Pittsburgh Steelers â€” William Beatty, OT, Connecticut
Record: 12-4 | Needs: OT, G, CB, LB, DE
The Super Bowl Champs will be in the ideal position of picking last in the draft. Usually the team picking in the 32nd slot just sits and waits to see who is available before picking. But the Steelers have a drastic need to fortify an offensive line as quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was sacked an NFL high 51 times in ’08. With an eye toward keeping Big Ben upright, the world champion Steelers will take Beatty (6-feet-6, 307). The former All-Big East offensive tackle has the feet, agility and strength required to be a very good left or right tackle in the NFL. After making a comeback from a broken leg in 2006, Beatty was the Huskies most consistent O-lineman only allowing 6Â½ sacks over the past two years. The NFL Combine was Beatty’s finest hour as he joined Jason Smith, Monroe, Oher, and Davis in top tackle conversations. At the combine, Beatty came in at 307 lbs (weighed only 291 pounds at the Senior Bowl due to the flu), ran an exceptional 5.12 forty, had a very good 33.5 vertical jump, and showed good athleticism in the o-lineman drills. The only area where the Steelers will need improvement from Beatty is his strength as he failed to put up 30 reps of 225 pounds at the combine.
Teams not owning a first round pick
Carolina Panthers â€” Record: 12-4 | Needs: DT, LB, QB, WR
The Panthers traded their 2009 first round pick to the Philadelphia Eagles during the 2008 NFL Draft to select offensive tackle Jeff Otah (19th overall). Even though they do not have a top pick in 2009, you have to say the trade worked for the Panthers. Otah and Jordan Gross have formed one of the NFL’s best young bookend tandems plus the Panthers running game was one of the NFL’s best (152.3 yards per game – Ranking of 3rd overall). However the NFC South Champions should think about finding a young quarterback of the future and improving their play at the defensive tackle position in the draft. The defensive line was not as stout after the trading of DT Kris Jenkins to the Jets in ’08 and quarterback Jake Delhomme was too inconsistent (5 INTs in playoffs to the Cardinals). Also watch for the Panthers to possibly move disgruntled “franchised” defensive lineman Julius Peppers for a first round pick before or during the draft.
Dallas Cowboys â€” Record: 9-7 | Needs: CB, WR, OT, S
In an October 2008 trade deadline deal, the Cowboys traded away their 2009 first round pick along with a third and a sixth-round pick to the Detroit Lions in exchange for a seventh-round pick and WR Roy Williams. For their efforts the Cowboys received 19 receptions for 198 yards (10.4 ypc) and 1 TD from Williams and missed the playoffs. By not having a first rounder, The Cowboys and owner Jerry Jones will be counting on Williams to be the man in ’09. The former University of Texas start will not only have to produce because of the high price trade, but also there is the added pressure of replacing volatile receiver Terrell Owens who was cut and now resides in Buffalo. The Cowboys will also probably be looking for secondary help as they have openings for a cornerback and strong safety due to additional off-season cuts.