1. St. Louis Rams: Nebraska DT Ndamukong Suh
The 2009 National Player of the Year, Suh took home the Outland (NCAA's best interior defensive lineman), Lombardi (best front seven player), Bednarik (best overall defender), and Nagurski (best NCAA defender) awards as a senior. Suh is clearly is the draft's premier prospect. St. Louis needs help at every position, so GM Billy Devaney can safely take a best-available-player approach. Suh would line up as the Rams' "three-technique" next to NT Clifton Ryan, with injury-prone Adam Carriker available as a hybrid end/tackle off the bench. The Rams could trade a late-round pick for or sign Michael Vick after he's cut to play quarterback. At least he'd sell tickets.
2. Detroit Lions: Oklahoma State LT Russell Okung
Okung earned Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year and first-team All-American honors after allowing just one sack and two QB pressures. The Cowboys led the Big 12 in rushing in each of Okung's four seasons as a starter. A complete left tackle, Okung's addition would allow Jeff Backus to kick inside to left guard, where the Lions played musical chairs with Daniel Loper and Manuel Ramirez, among others, in 2009. GM Martin Mayhew has made it clear that his offseason agenda will be built around franchise quarterback Matthew Stafford. The draft is deep enough at defensive tackle that Detroit could pick a Lamarr Houston-type later on if need be.
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Tennessee S Eric Berry
Berry's numbers were down in '09, but the 21-year-old still earned the Jim Thorpe Award as D-I's top defensive back while learning under the tutelage of Vols coordinator Monte Kiffin. Kiffin, of course, ran the Bucs' defense when Tampa coach Raheem Morris oversaw the team's secondary. Sure to get rave reviews from Kiffin, Berry put the team before himself as a junior, moving out of centerfield to shore up Tennessee's struggling run defense as a hybrid safety/linebacker. After ranking dead last in run defense last season, the Buccaneers could use a similar lift. Some analysts even consider Berry the draft's best all-around player.
4. Washington Redskins: Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford
While recurring throwing-shoulder injuries are a major concern for Bradford, the Skins have an inside track on his prognosis because their team doctor performed the 2008 Heisman winner's surgery last October. Bradford's skill set is also an ideal fit for new coach Mike Shanahan's precision-based West Coast offense. Incredibly accurate with underrated mobility, the fourth-year junior left college as the NCAA's all-time leader in passing efficiency while posting 88 career TDs to just 16 interceptions. The Redskins' beat writers fully expect Shanahan to invest in an early-round quarterback, and Bradford is the best this year.
5. Kansas City Chiefs: Oklahoma State WR Dez Bryant
Bryant missed all but three games in 2009 after being suspended by the NCAA for lying about inappropriate interactions with NFL employee Deion Sanders, but the Academic All-Conference pick isn't an airhead. A leaper with incredible body control and hands, Bryant has game resembling Andre Johnson's. As a true sophomore for the Cowboys, Bryant was a first-team All American and the Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Year. He caught 87 passes for 1,480 yards and 19 touchdowns, adding 17 punt returns for an average of 17.9 yards per attempt and two more scores. The Chiefs' hire of offensive coordinator Charlie Weis strongly indicates that this offseason will be dedicated to helping Matt Cassel. Bryant would be the final piece to the puzzle.
6. Seattle Seahawks: Oklahoma DT Gerald McCoy
The 2008 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, McCoy lost out to Ndamukong Suh in his bid to repeat. But the fourth-year junior upped his production amid increased double teams, generating 16.5 tackles for loss and six sacks. McCoy is an up-field pass rusher and everything ex-Seahawks GM Tim Ruskell hoped Cory Redding would be in 2009. Redding flamed out, so it's back to the drawing board for new coach Pete Carroll. Carroll will use a Tampa-2 style defensive scheme that requires penetration from the front four. He'll also expect immediate impact from his two top-15 picks. McCoy is the answer in both areas.
7. Cleveland Browns: Florida CB Joe Haden
Haden was the college version of Darrelle Revis in 2009. Gators coordinator Charlie Strong wasn't afraid to assign Haden to No. 1 receivers because of his shutdown capability, sure tackling, and ball skills. A complete corner, Haden led Florida in solo tackles, picks, and pass breakups, and tied for the team lead in forced fumbles. He's also likely to test well in February. Haden ran a 4.34 40 in high school and figures to solidify a top-10 draft slotting if he equals or betters that at the Combine. In Cleveland, Haden would team with Eric Wright to rival Cincinnati's Johnathan Joseph and Leon Hall as the AFC's most talented cornerback duo.
8. Oakland Raiders: Alabama MLB Rolando McClain
This pick may be too logical for owner Al Davis to comprehend, but McClain is worthy of a top-eight selection. The Butkus Award winner at "Mike" linebacker in Nick Saban's 3-4 scheme, McClain would also fit a 4-3 like Oakland's in the middle. The Raiders' rush defense annually ranks among the league's worst; McClain has the size to be a tried-and-true run stopper. With the third-year junior calling plays in 2009, Alabama ranked second nationally in run defense and permitted an NCAA-low five rushing scores in 14 games. Oakland has been trying to replace current MLB Kirk Morrison for two years.
9. Buffalo Bills: Iowa OT Bryan Bulaga
10. Jacksonville Jaguars: Georgia Tech DE Derrick Morgan
The Jags finished the season dead last in sack differential, mostly because they generated no pressure. The team's 14 sacks were also dead last. Jacksonville must draft the best pass rusher available, and at this position Morgan is it. An ideal base 4-3 end, Morgan led the ACC in sacks in 2009 and was named conference Defensive Player of the Year. He'd book end underachieving Derrick Harvey at right defensive end, allowing Quentin Groves to slide back into a situational nickel-rushing role. Owner Wayne Weaver can safely wait until the second round for Tim Tebow.
11. Denver Broncos: Alabama NT Terrence Cody
Rolando McClain's behemoth "shield" for the national champs, Cody measured 6-4, 370 pounds at the Senior Bowl weigh-in. Cody registered just six tackles for loss and no sacks as a senior and is not a pocket pusher. But 3-4 nose tackles like the two-time consensus first-team All American don't come around often. The Broncos sputtered against the run in 2009, finishing 26th overall as first-year NT Ronald Fields wore down late in the year. While weight issues are a big concern, Broncos coach Josh McDaniels should have the inside track on Cody's fitness and work ethic because Alabama's Nick Saban gave McD his first coaching job as a Michigan State graduate assistant.
12. Miami Dolphins: South Florida DE Jason Paul-Pierre
A dominant edge presence who got by on raw athleticism in 2009, Paul-Pierre played just one year in D-I after transferring from a junior college. His impact was immediate. Paul-Pierre severely outplayed more highly-touted DE George Selvie en route to consensus first-team All-Big East honors, pacing the Bulls in tackles for loss, sacks, blocking a kick, and returning an interception for a touchdown. With a massive 81-inch wingspan, he fits Fins VP of Football Operations Bill Parcells' profile as a monster pass rusher with as high a ceiling as any player in the draft. Paul-Pierre certainly has the skill set to play outside linebacker in Miami's 3-4.
13. San Francisco 49ers: Notre Dame QB Jimmy Clausen
No passer in the nation improved as much as Clausen from 2007 through 2009. Demonstrating toughness while playing through arm injuries as a true freshman and torn toe ligaments as a junior, Clausen emerged as a first-round prospect by completing 68 percent of his passes in '09 and posting a 28:4 TD-to-INT ratio in Charlie Weis' pro-style offense despite the injury, loss of explosive wideout Michael Floyd to a broken collarbone, and an average-at-best offensive line. 49ers GM Scot McCloughan believes in Alex Smith, but may fear division-rival Seattle will tab Clausen if he doesn't act. While some question Clausen's arm strength and attitude, there probably wouldn't be a more valuable player left at this point in the draft.
14. Seattle Seahawks: Rutgers LT Anthony Davis
The nation's No. 1 offensive line recruit out of Piscataway High, N.J., Davis entered the Scarlet Knights' starting lineup as a 17-year-old freshman and didn't look back. He moved from guard to left tackle as a sophomore and finished with 32 career starts, earning first-team All-Big East accolades in his final two years. Davis, who won't turn 21 until October and was dubbed Lindy's "best pass blocker in the Big East" entering '09. Rutgers' line disappointed, and Davis has a history of weight fluctuation that figures to keep him out of the top 10. But talented left tackles come off the board quickly in April, and the Seahawks need one. Badly.
15. New York Giants: USC S Taylor Mays
Aside from middle linebacker and defensive back, the Giants' roster is set at most positions. They just need to stay healthy. GM Jerry Reese typically adheres to the best-player-available strategy, though this year he figures to lean toward the best inside linebacker, safety, or cornerback. Iowa CB Amari Spievey and Florida MLB Brandon Spikes are worth consideration, but Mays offers more value at this point. Though the two-time All-Pac Ten first-teamer finished his senior year with just one interception and no tackles for loss, Mays' range and intimidating hitting ability will appeal to a Giants team that went soft in the secondary in '09. Reese must operate this offseason as if anything SS Kenny Phillips (microfracture surgery) provides next year is a bonus.
16. Tennessee Titans: Florida DE Carlos Dunlap
Dunlap has a big name and big-time talent, but a junior-year production slip coupled with a DUI arrest that resulted in a one-game suspension is likely to cost him some spots on draft day. Dunlap is ideally built to play left end in a 4-3 scheme like Tennessee's. The SEC honor roll pick is also no dummy, and showed the ability to overcome adversity by returning from suspension for two sacks in the Gators' Sugar Bowl win. Though his tackles-for-loss total fell from 13.5 to 10.5 as he moved into a full-time role in 2009, Dunlap's potential should keep him in the top 16. The Titans have a hole at LE after 33-year-old Jevon Kearse fell off a cliff last year.
17. San Francisco 49ers: Oklahoma LT Trent Williams
A 40-game starter at OU, Williams moved to the blind side as a senior to replace Phil Loadholt, who is now a starter for the Vikings. Williams, a right tackle in his first three seasons, struggled with edge rushers initially before closing strong to earn first-team All-Big 12 honors for a second straight year. Questions remain about Williams' height and arm length, however, especially after he skipped the Senior Bowl. The Sooners' run-game production also took a huge hit without Williams on the strong side. It's pretty clear that his best position is right tackle, where San Francisco fittingly needs help. Adam Snyder and Barry Sims have proved inadequate options.
18. Pittsburgh Steelers: Clemson RB C.J. Spiller
19. Atlanta Falcons: Iowa CB Amari Spievey
Perhaps the most physical corner in the country, Spievey was a big hit waiting to happen while often being charged with shadowing No. 1 receivers. Also showing shutdown ability, Spievey helped hold Georgia Tech big-play machine Demaryius Thomas to zero catches in Iowa's Orange Bowl win. Spievey had 56 tackles and two picks in 2009, mostly because quarterbacks didn't dare throw his way after a four-interception sophomore year. The underclassman still earned first-team All-Big Ten honors. The Falcons were awful in the secondary last season, rotating Brent Grimes, Tye Hill, and Christopher Owens opposite Chris Houston with little success.
20. Houston Texans: Georgia Tech RB Jonathan Dwyer
Dwyer didn't repeat as ACC Player of the Year in '09, but the 235-pound bulldozer's stock safely remains in top 20-25 territory. Despite a drop from 7.0 yards per carry to 5.9 in his junior season, Dwyer set a career best with 14 TDs and was named first-team All-ACC alongside C.J. Spiller. Dwyer caught just 15 passes in college and will only be an early-down back initially because he isn't adept in blitz pickup. The third-year junior packs power (think Michael Turner), and would add a new dimension to the league's No. 30 rushing offense. Dwyer is also durable and built to carry the ball 25 times a game, which can't be said for any member of Houston's current RB corps.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: UCLA DT Brian Price
Though coordinator Mike Zimmer's defense finished in the top four overall, the Bengals' pass rush fell apart down the stretch, managing just six sacks in the final eight games and none in the last two. Antwan Odom's ruptured Achilles' was the primary cause, but Cincinnati also got little push from the inside. Starting three-technique tackle Tank Johnson had two sacks all season. The 2009 Pac Ten Defensive Player of the Year, Price ranked third nationally in tackles for loss and paced UCLA with seven sacks. He is the ultimate up-field, pass-rushing interior tackle and a picture-perfect fit for Zimmer's pressure-first scheme.
22. New England Patriots: Texas OLB Sergio Kindle
Bill Belichick places as high an emphasis as any coach on versatility and the ability to play multiple positions. He's sure to be intrigued by Kindle, who started at defensive end, strong-side and rush linebacker, on special teams, and even saw action inside at UT. He lived in opposing backfields as a fourth-year senior -- 22 tackles for loss tied Kindle for the team lead, earning him third-team All-American honors. He also led Texas in quarterback hurries. The Patriots' biggest 2009 weakness was in the pass-rush department, although they were also worse than usual against the run. Kindle does everything well.
23. Green Bay Packers: USC LT Charles Brown
Green Bay's pass protection became league average or slightly better with the in-season addition of RT Mark Tauscher and LT Chad Clifton's return to health, but the Packers still gave up more sacks than anyone. And both Tauscher and Clifton are free agents. Though Brown was only a two-year starter, he evolved into the Pac-10's premier pass protector in his senior season while guarding freshman Matt Barkley's blind side. A high school tight end, Brown is also nimble enough on his feet to excel in Green Bay's downfield, zone-blocking scheme.
24. Philadelphia Eagles: Texas SS Earl Thomas
The Birds played musical chairs at free safety throughout 2009, using fifth-round rookie Macho Harris, coverage liability Sean Jones, and special teamer Quintin Demps at the position. None of them proved capable. Thomas played the strong side at UT, but his speed makes him likely to move to "centerfield" in the pros. Second in the nation with eight interceptions (two returned for touchdowns) last year, Thomas offers the best ball skills in the draft and is plenty physical. The consensus first-team All American forced five fumbles in his final two seasons.
25. Baltimore Ravens: Georgia Tech WR Demaryius Thomas
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
26. Arizona Cardinals: Oklahoma TE Jermaine Gresham
This assumes Kurt Warner will retire. The Cards will likely lean toward cornerback in the first round if he returns. Should Warner hang 'em up, Arizona figures to switch to a balanced offense that features Chris Wells, and requires a tight end to run underneath routes. Gresham, despite missing all of 2009 with a knee injury, is a complete TE who learned to block in OU's hybrid pro-style/spread offense as well as lining up in the slot. Dominant in the red zone in 2008, Gresham paced the Sooners with 14 TDs to go with 66 catches and 950 yards (14.4 YPC). While helping in the run game, Gresham would give Matt Leinart a much-needed safety valve over the middle.
27. Dallas Cowboys: Maryland LT Bruce Campbell
Dallas has question marks at both tackle spots, with LT Flozell Adams turning 35 this May and RT Marc Colombo coming off a playoff loss in which he was dominated by Vikings' left end Ray Edwards. Doug Free could capably replace Colombo, but the Cowboys need a left tackle of the future. Campbell probably isn't ready to play right away. He started only 17 games at Maryland, missed three in 2009 with knee and turf toe injuries, and will have to add bulk. But Campbell is an elite athlete at the position with Pro Bowl-caliber upside. He could learn for a year behind Adams, before starting in 2010 when Adams' base salary jumps to $5.1 million.
28. San Diego Chargers: Tennessee NT Dan Williams
San Diego's most glaring need is at tailback, but 3-4 nose tackles are much harder to find. Starter Jamal Williams turns 34 in April, enters the last year of his contract, and missed all but one game in '09 with a torn triceps. No. 2 nose tackle Ogemdi Nwagbuo, already undersized, also went on injured reserve after ten games with an ankle injury. Williams proved he could carry even more weight after leading the Volunteers in tackles for loss and quarterback pressures as a fifth-year senior.
29. New York Jets: Boise State CB Kyle Wilson
NFL Network's Mike Mayock raves about Wilson, and it's easy to see why. Versed in press, off, and zone coverage, Wilson was a four-year starter for the Broncos who intercepted eight passes in his final two seasons, returning two for TDs as a senior. Wilson didn't miss a game in college, plays bigger than his size indicates, and offers punt return value. In an overhaul of their secondary, the Jets plan to cut CBs Lito Sheppard and Donald Strickland this offseason, and trade FS Kerry Rhodes. They'll need reinforcements.
30. Minnesota Vikings: Idaho OG Mike Iupati
A road-grating mauler with 35-inch arms who could play right tackle if needed, Iupati's stock depends on the postseason showcase events. The Samoan isn't used to facing anyone resembling an NFL prospect. The Vikings' line struggled badly to run block down the stretch of 2009, with Adrian Peterson averaging 3.3 yards per carry from Week 9 until the NFC Championship Game. They need help on the interior.
31. New Orleans Saints: Michigan DE Brandon Graham
Graham's height and abnormally short arms (30 inches) will probably keep him out of the top-30 picks, if not the first round altogether. His production says he should go in the top 15. The nation's leader in tackles for loss as a senior, Graham also led Michigan in sacks during each of his last three seasons to finish second in school history in both quarterback takedowns and TFLs. A high-motor defender, Graham would easily replace pedestrian nickel rusher Bobby McCray in New Orleans, and perhaps push LE Charles Grant off the roster with a big summer. Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams' system is built on pressure. Graham brings it.
32. Indianapolis Colts: Florida MLB Brandon Spikes
As the Colts continue their transition from a Tampa-2 defense to a scheme that actually gives them a shot to stop the run, they'll need bigger, stronger players in the front seven. Incumbent Gary Brackett remains a fine middle linebacker, but is a free agent this offseason and has long been undersized. Spikes, a thumper who has two inches and nearly 25 pounds on Brackett, is coming off a down senior year plagued by injuries and a suspension. But the three-time All-SEC first-teamer is a natural born leader and playmaker with underrated pass-rush ability from the interior.
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