Mock draft: Lions should play it safe

By Connor Byrne  |   Monday, March 23, 2009  |  Comments( 3 )

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1.) Detroit Lions - Jason Smith, OT, Baylor. Former Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford wants the Lions to take him with this choice, but they should avoid the temptation and go with Smith, the safer selection. The bottom line is that Detroit, which famously finished 0-16 last season, can't screw this pick up; that's why the 309-pound Smith, who has exceptional pass-blocking skills, ought to be the way the Lions go. They must build from the trenches outward in the same way Miami did a year ago.

2.) St. Louis Rams - Eugene Monroe, OT, Virginia. The Rams recently put an end to the lengthy, successful Orlando Pace era by cutting the 12-year left tackle. That opens up a place for Monroe, an All-American last year.

3.) Kansas City Chiefs - Aaron Curry, LB, Wake Forest. Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli is big on versatility; so is Curry, who can play outside or inside in either a 4-3 or 3-4 defensive alignment. While they say there's no such thing as a can't-miss prospect, Curry is close. What's more, he'd have a great mentor in 33-year-old LB Mike Vrabel, a three-time Super Bowl champion with New England.

4.) Seattle Seahawks - Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech. The Seahawks did Matt Hasselbeck a major service when they signed wideout T.J. Houshmandzadeh early in free agency, but the Pro Bowl target could use a great complement like Crabtree. As a member of Texas Tech's pass-happy offense the past two seasons, the 6-foot-1, 215-pound Crabtree caught 227 balls and 40 touchdowns.

5.) Cleveland Browns - Everette Brown, DE/LB, Florida State. An outside pass rusher is a must for Cleveland, which finished with a pitiful 17 sacks in 2008 (tied for second worst in the NFL). Brown amassed almost that many himself at FSU last year, totaling 13.5.

6.) Cincinnati Bengals - B.J. Raji, DT, Boston College. The Bengals ended last season tied for second last in sacks and 21st versus the run. Enter Raji, the 337-pounder who's dominant against opposing ground games and contributed eight sacks for BC in '08.

7.) Oakland Raiders - Jeremy Maclin, WR, Missouri. What is the one asset that Raiders owner Al Davis seems to value above any other? Speed. And what is Maclin known for? His speed, of course. Maclin, who runs in the 4.4s, was a major producer at Missouri, catching 182 passes and 22 touchdowns in his two seasons with the Tigers. Perhaps the 6-0, 198-pounder could be a DeSean Jackson-type weapon as a rookie for Raiders QB JaMarcus Russell; plus, he should be able to contribute as a return man.

8.) Jacksonville Jaguars - Matthew Stafford, QB, Georgia. The Jags may not necessarily need a signal-caller with David Garrard holding the reins, but Stafford will be awfully tough to bypass if he slides to No. 8. Stafford silenced many doubters with a terrific pro day showing last Thursday.

9.) Green Bay Packers - Brian Orakpo, DE/LB, Texas. A pass-rushing LB to accompany Aaron Kampman is a need in Green Bay, and Orakpo should be able to fill that role in spades. The DeMarcus Ware type finished last season with 11.5 sacks and racked up mega hardware in the process, winning awards for best linebacker and top defensive player in college football.

10.) San Francisco 49ers - Andre Smith, OT, Alabama. Smith was dominant on the field for the Crimson Tide last season, but he's had issues with both conditioning and commitment. However, he'll have a phenomenal mentor in 49ers coach Mike Singletary. If you don't want to run through the proverbial brick wall for Singletary, you don't have a pulse.

11.) Buffalo Bills - Brian Cushing, LB, USC. Because of their glaring holes at defensive end and strongside linebacker, the Bills are a hard team to gauge at No. 11. With that said, they should go the safer route, leave Aaron Maybin on the board and grab Cushing -- who can step in immediately and fill the spot left by the departed Angelo Crowell -- and look for a pass rusher in Round 2 (Connor Barwin, for instance). The Bills took the safe path last year with their first-round selection of playmaking cornerback/return man Leodis McKelvin, which worked out quite well.

12.) Denver Broncos - Rey Maualuga, LB, USC. Maualuga to inside linebacker-needy Denver should be a no-brainer if he's still available here.

13.) Washington Redskins - Aaron Maybin, DE, Penn State. The Redskins finished 28th in the league in sacks last year, compiling only 24. The explosive Maybin had 12 for the Nittany Lions.

14.) New Orleans Saints - Malcolm Jenkins, DB, Ohio State. New Orleans addressed its porous secondary in free agency with its signing of ex-Bills playmaker Jabari Greer, but that shouldn't deter it from grabbing Jenkins. Whether as a corner or safety, the 6-0, 204-pound Jenkins will be a difference-maker in the pros.

15.) Houston Texans - Vontae Davis, CB, Illinois. A pass rusher is a greater need for Houston, without question, but there simply aren't any worth taking at No. 15. That leaves the raw but talented Davis, who could play opposite Dunta Robinson and replace Robinson if he bolts as a free agent in 2010.

16.) San Diego Chargers - Tyson Jackson, DE, LSU. The 296-pounder would be a nice replacement for Igor Olshansky as a 3-4 end.

17.) New York Jets - Mark Sanchez, QB, Jets. One gets the feeling the Jets will find a way to work out a trade for disgruntled Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler; if not, though, they'll have to take Sanchez should he fall to 17th. The 6-2, 227-pounder has excellent pocket presence -- which is why some believe he's even better than Stafford -- to complement a solid arm and high intelligence.

18.) Chicago Bears - Michael Oher, OT, Ole Miss. The Bears need to start thinking about the future of their O-line, and adding the immensely talented Oher would be a good place to start.

19.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Josh Freeman, QB, Kansas State. Tampa went hard after Cutler earlier this offseason, so you know it's not high on current starter Luke McCown. Assuming the Buccaneers don't swing a deal for Cutler, they should draft the 6-5, 248-pound Freeman, whose size, arm strength and mobility are reminiscent of a young Daunte Culpepper.

20.) Detroit Lions - Peria Jerry, DT, Ole Miss. A linebacker here is a possibility, but the Lions just upgraded there by acquiring ex-Seahawk Julian Peterson; to land Peterson, though, they had to trade DT Cory Redding. They should fill his void with the best tackle on the board here in the 300-pound Jerry.

21.) Philadelphia Eagles - Eben Britton, OT, Arizona. The Eagles lost Tra Thomas in free agency, so adding a tackle makes sense. The 6-6, 310-pound Britton is a highly disciplined player who's excellent in pass protection.

22.) Minnesota Vikings - Hakeem Nicks, WR, North Carolina. The Vikings have a receiver who can stretch the field in Bernard Berrian, but they lack a top-end possession wideout. The 6-1, 215-pound Nicks, who hauled in 68 passes and 12 touchdowns last year, is in the mold of an Anquan Boldin. That's the type of player Minnesota needs.

23.) New England Patriots - Clint Sintim, DE/LB, Virginia. Sintim's outside pass-rushing skills, versatility and leadership combine to make him the quintessential Patriot linebacker. He'd be a heck of a replacement for Vrabel.

24.) Atlanta Falcons - Larry English, DE/LB, Northern Illinois. English, a pass-rushing force with a nasty streak, should be of high interest to Atlanta.

25.) Miami Dolphins - Clay Matthews, LB, USC. He's got the style of play, versatility and attitude to mesh beautifully in a Bill Parcells-led organization.

26.) Baltimore Ravens - Percy Harvin, WR, Florida. Ravens QB Joe Flacco needs a field-stretcher who can add a tricky element to Baltimore's straightforward offense; he'd get one in Harvin.

27.) Indianapolis Colts - Evander "Ziggy" Hood, DT, Missouri. Judging by their attempt to trade for the Bills' John McCargo last season, not to mention their 24th-place ranking against the run, the Colts are searching for a defensive tackle. The 300-pound Hood, who's a great athlete, makes sense for Indy's Tampa 2 scheme.

28.) Philadelphia Eagles - Knowshon Moreno, RB, Georgia. The 5-11, 207-pound Moreno doesn't possess elite speed, but he can block, catch passes and handle short-yardage situations. He'd form a superb tandem with Brian Westbrook.

29.) New York Giants - Kenny Britt, WR, Rutgers. The Giants' weaknesses are few, but one is at receiver -- especially with Plaxico Burress battling serious legal issues. Britt, whom Giants fans know well from his standout Rutgers career, ought to be the selection here.

30.) Tennessee Titans - Ron Brace, DT, Boston College. With Albert Haynesworth gone, the Titans no longer have great size in the middle of their defensive line. Draft the 334-pound Brace, though, and that will no longer be an issue. Nevertheless, Brace would have enormous shoes to fill if the Titans selected him to replace Haynesworth.

31.) Arizona Cardinals - Chris "Beanie" Wells, RB, Ohio State. This 235-pound bruiser would add another dimension to an Arizona offense with an elite passing attack but a poor running game.

32.) Pittsburgh Steelers - Alex Mack, C, California. The Steelers don't need much, but they could use a young mauler in the middle of their offensive line. Tough and mean on the field, Mack has the mentality of a Steeler.

Notable omissions: Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Oklahoma State; James Laurinaitis, LB, Ohio State; Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Maryland.
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