Guess King doesn't buy the Albert hype as much as other people. Let's hope he's right, although he seldom is.
2008 NFL Mock Draft
1. Miami Dolphins - Jake Long, OT, Michigan
The Dolphins have signed Jake Long to a five-year, $57.5 million contract, $30 million of which is guaranteed. That locks in Jake Long as the #1 pick in the 2008 NFL Draft.
Long is a solid blocker who would open holes for Ronnie Brown while giving John Beck (or whomever ends up with the starting QB job) time to pass. Of all the comments that have come out since word first broke of the negotiations, not one I've heard has been critical of the Dolphins for going after Long. And rightfully so -- he is a superior talent who should be the cornerstone of the Miami offensive line for years to come.
2. St. Louis Rams - Chris Long, DE, Virginia
Rumors are running rampant about the Rams and the #2 overall pick. With Leonard Little aging, a star defensive end makes a great deal of sense for this position, even with the team having used its 2007 first rounder on DL Adam Carriker.
It could easily come down to Chris Long vs. Vernon Gholston. And while Gholston is a superb pass rush threat, overall Long appears to be a better overall prospect. He is outstanding against both the run and the pass, with the ability to slide off of double-teams and to pursue the ball without being trapped or falling for cut-backs.
3. Atlanta Falcons - Glenn Dorsey, DT, LSU
There has been more and more talk that if Dorsey is on the board here that Atlanta would take him at this spot over Boston College QB Matt Ryan. And, finally, I have jumped on board with that line of thinking.
Consider this: the Falcons have three picks in the second round, any one of which could be used on a quarterback prospect. The Falcons have done their homework, and unless Matt Ryan has blown them away relative to the group of QBs likely to be on the board in round one, Atlanta could easily go quarterback in round two... or potentially trade up into the late first round to ensure that they land the prospect that they want.
Dorsey would be able to start immediately for the Falcons and have an instant impact in the middle. He is an elite player who has suffered through back and knee injuries and had the guts to remain on the field for LSU down the stretch in 2007. In a draft that is rather light on top-flight defensive tackle prospects, this is the chance for Atlanta to select the best of the bunch.
4. Oakland Raiders - Darren McFadden, RB, Arkansas *
Oakland is a team that could use a superstar player on offense to take some of the pressure off of QB JaMarcus Russell, and McFadden would fit the bill quite nicely on that. Oakland has made some surprising personnel decisions this off-season. To point, the team traded for disgruntled Atlanta CB DeAngelo Hall and gave him a new contract with $24 million+ guaranteed while having an exclusive rights free agent tag on CB Nnamdi Asomugha. Also, the Raiders signed DE Tommy Kelly to a massive deal ($18 million+ guaranteed) with the thought of moving him to defensive tackle.
Yes, the Raiders signed RB Justin Fargas to a contract extension ($6 million guaranteed) earlier this year, and Michael Bush and Dominic Rhodes and LaMont Jordan are all still on the roster, at least for now. But I strongly suspect that Al Davis wants McFadden, based on rumors I've heard out of Oakland. If Oakland has the chance to draft McFadden, I think they will. Ultimately, it's Al Davis' team and his call to make. It could prove to be a very wise move -- McFadden is a rare talent at running back, and he has the fundamentals down and plays hard on every down.
5. Kansas City Chiefs - Vernon Gholston, DE, Ohio State
The trade of Jared Allen to Minnesota netted Kansas City three picks, including the #17 overall selection. This frees the team up to take Gholston at this spot as opposed to stretching for the second-best offensive tackle in the draft.
Gholston's stock has skyrocketed this off-season, and his speed rushing skills were arguably the best of anyone in college football in 2007. He beat #1 overall pick Jake Long for a sack in the Michigan/OSU game this past season, something that *never* happens.
6. New York Jets - Leodis McKelvin, CB, Troy
The big loser of the Chiefs/Vikings trade could be, strangely enough, the Jets. It had appeared that the Jets would have a very good chance to land Gholston at this position prior to the trade, but with Kansas City suddenly needing a high-end DE, that seems much less likely now.
So what will the Jets do? They have a few choices, but going with a talented corner like McKelvin would be a great move. There is no consensus #1 cornerback talent in this draft, but McKelvin has made some separation from the rest in the eyes of some scouts during the off-season. McKelvin once shut down Georgia Tech WR Calvin Johnson in a 2006 game, holding him to just two receptions for nine yards. That was no fluke; McKelvin is a solid player with great man coverage skills.
Adding insult to injury is that this move would prevent New England from taking McKelvin with the #7 pick, as if the Jets/Patriots rivalry needed any more escalation.
7. New England Patriots (from 49ers) - Keith Rivers, OLB, USC
With corners Asante Samuel and Randall Gay departing for the riches of free agency, New England has some holes to fill in its secondary. But the team also has need at linebacker, and with a talent like Rivers on the board, he could prove to be too tempting to pass up.
The Patriots are a notoriously tough team to project, and they could draft an offensive tackle or a corner and it wouldn't surprise me. But Rivers has great NFL size, solid instincts, and a strong work ethic. All of that would seem to fit well in the Patriots system.
My best guess is that New England will look to trade down on draft day. But if they stay at #7, Rivers could be a solid addition to the team.
8. Baltimore Ravens - Matt Ryan, QB, Boston College
With the retirement of 35-year-old QB Steve McNair, quarterback went from a high need for Baltimore to a very pressing need. This would be a best case scenario for Baltimore, with Ryan falling to them at #8. While I had penciled Louisville QB Brian Brohm in this spot for some time, realistically it was a long shot at best that such a scenario would play out.
Ryan is viewed by most scouts as the top quarterback prospect in this draft, and it would not surprise me at all to see Kyle Boller start the season as Baltimore's starter before finally losing the job to Ryan. But first things first -- Baltimore has to draft Ryan for that to even be a possibility.
9. Cincinnati Bengals - Sedrick Ellis, DT, USC
For Cincinnati, adding a defensive tackle is a must. The Bengals missed out on trading for Shaun Rogers (who ended up with the rival Browns), but being in a position to draft Ellis would help take the sting out of missing out on Rogers.
The risk for the Bengals is that, once you get past LSU DT Glenn Dorsey and Ellis, there's a considerable dropoff in DT talent (which is, in part, why I changed my Atlanta projection to Dorsey.) The teams in the 6-8 spots all run a 3-4 defense, which would make Ellis seem like an unlikely selection for them, but there is always the risk of a team like New Orleans leapfrogging Cincy to snag Ellis. That could, in turn, prompt Cincinnati to trade up (maybe with New England) to ensure that they land Ellis.
10. New Orleans Saints - Mike Jenkins, CB, USF
The Saints are arguably the most likely team to trade up, since they need a defensive tackle and would be unlikely to land either Dorsey or Ellis if they sit at this #10 spot.
If DT turns out to be a no go, boosting the team's secondary makes sense, particularly with a solid prospect like Jenkins. Yes, the Saints signed free agents in Randall Gay (Patriots) and Aaron Glenn (Cowboys). But Glenn turns 36 in July, and Gay can't cover the secondary by himself long-term. Moreover, the presence of veterans would allow Jenkins to work his way into the lineup slowly, and it would give New Orleans depth at a critical position.
But the biggest need for the Saints is defensive tackle, and I suspect that they will do everything they can to move up on draft day to land either Glenn Dorsey or Sedrick Ellis, if possible.
11. Buffalo Bills - Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB, Tennessee State
Rodgers-Cromartie looked good going into the off-season, and he has continued to live up to the hype under the NFL microscope. A starter since midway through his freshman year, the 6'2" Rodgers-Cromartie is a speedy (sub 4.4 40), tall, and strong competitor who might have NFL fans saying "Who?" on draft day before earning their respect with his solid play.
What does DRC offer? Along with being a solid #1 CB, he also is a special teams machine. He blocked four kicks in 2007 for TSU, took the two interceptions he made during the season back for TDs, and will be able to give the Bills another great kick return option to pair with the vastly underrated Terrence McGee.
12. Denver Broncos - Ryan Clady, OT, Boise State *
The Broncos could use a left offensive tackle, and the powerful Clady would be a wonderful addition to the team. There are other needs for the Broncos to consider, including defensive line and secondary, but a talent like Clady would be a great addition to a traditionally strong offensive line.
13. Carolina Panthers - Derrick Harvey, DE, Florida *
There are a number of needs for Carolina's defense, including defensive tackle and safety. And while the Panthers signed former Raiders DE Tyler Brayton this off-season, the team also lost DE Mike Rucker to retirement earlier this week. A player with Harvey's ability would be arguably the best match of talent and need at this spot for Carolina.
Harvey ran a bit slower at the combine than expected, but he is still a very talented player who has proven himself in high profile games, most notably the BCS Title game win over Ohio State in January 2007 when he collected three sacks on Ohio State QB Troy Smith.
14. Chicago Bears - Brian Brohm, QB, Louisville
In a somewhat surprising move, the Bears signed QB Rex Grossman to a one-year deal earlier this year. However, it can be relatively safely argued that Grossman does not represent the future of the franchise at quarterback.
There are varying opinions out there about Brian Brohm and the position in the draft where he should be slotted. Some see him as a possible early first round pick, but for a team like Chicago that needs a long-term answer at QB, staying put at #14 and selecting Brohm makes sense. Grossman, who knows the offense, can start the year at QB, and depending on how Brohm develops, he could potentially move into the starting slot in the second half of the 2008 season.
15. Detroit Lions - Jonathan Stewart, RB, Oregon *
Mike Martz is gone as the offensive coordinator in Detroit, and that means the Lions will likely look for more production in 2008 from the running back position than it did in years past. But with the team cutting former starting RB Kevin Jones this off-season, it remains to be seen as to who the Lions will select.
There are needs at defensive end and linebacker on this team, but ultimately a talent like Stewart could be too much to pass on in this spot, particularly if Florida DE Derrick Harvey is off the board, as he's projected to be in this mock draft.
Stewart is recovering on surgery related to a turf toe injury, but he is expected to be healthy by the time training camp opens. He could be a day one starter for Detroit, and he brings the added threat of being a kick returner -- all this from a running back with a Jamal Lewis like build at 5'11" 235 pounds. Teams that try to arm tackle Stewart will do so at their own peril.
16. Arizona Cardinals - Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Illinois *
Edgerrin James rushed for 1,200+ yards last year, but there's a secret behind that: he averaged just 3.8 yards per carry. Combine that with the 3.4 yards per carry he posted in his first year in Arizona in 2006, and the fact that James will be 30 before the season begins, and it adds up to a troubling situation for a team that is otherwise loaded on offense.
The Cards would have multiple elite running backs to choose from in this scenario, and them taking either Mendenhall or Arkansas RB Felix Jones would seems plausible in this position. Ultimately it will come down to who the Cards feel would be the best fit for their team, but Mendenhall to Arizona makes a great deal of sense.
17. Kansas City Chiefs (from Minnesota) - Chris Williams, OT, Vanderbilt
The Chiefs have a desperate need at offensive tackle, and the trade of DE Jared Allen to Minnesota will allow the Chiefs to potentially take a tackle at this spot, where there should be some strong talent still on the board.
Williams had a strong career at Vandy, and in the week of the Senior Bowl he showed that he's not "soft" after engaging in a fight with feisty NT Red Bryant in practice. Pitt OT Jeff Otah might also be considered at this spot, but ultimately I'd think that the nod would go to the more experienced Williams, who found success despite playing for an undermanned team in Vandy facing top-notch competition on a near weekly basis.
18. Houston Texans - Jeff Otah, OT, Pittsburgh
Offensive tackle has been a need position for the Texans for several years, and the 6'6" 315 pound Otah could be a great fit for that spot. With Ahman Green and newly signed RB Chris Brown on the roster, the team seems set at RB (though they could go for a running back in a later round). And while cornerback is a need as well with the severe injury suffered by Dunta Robinson last year, the Texans could add depth later in the draft and deal with Fred Bennett and Jacques Reeves (acquired from Dallas) as its starters until Robinson returns.
19. Philadelphia Eagles - Phillip Merling, DE, Clemson *
Merling is recovering from a sports hernia injury, but he is expected to be ready to go by the time training camp rolls around. That injury might hurt him slightly (such as Detroit opting not to go DE at #15), but the Eagles would be wise to pounce on him in this position.
Merling is a player who would be a good fit as a 4-3 DE; he has a good mix of size and speed that could make him a valuable addition to the Eagles opposite DE Trent Cole.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Devin Thomas, WR, Michigan State *
There are some who think that this year's draft will be the first since 1990 with zero wide receivers going in the first round. I doubt that will happen, particularly with the meteoric rise of Michigan State WR Devin Thomas during the off-season.
The Bucs need a young, talented WR, with Joey Galloway turning 37 during the season and Michael Clayton having failed to find the form that he has as a rookie. There are a wide variety of moves that Tampa Bay could make here, but the chance to take the top wideout in the draft could prove to be too tempting to pass up.
21. Washington Redskins - Calais Campbell, DE, Miami *
There was a time early in the 2007 season when Campbell looked like a top five pick. That didn't hold up, particularly with teams double-teaming the massive Campbell on a regular basis, hurting his sack total compared with 2006.
But, for Washington, Campbell represents a great mix: massive size to control his side of the line, and amazing quickness at reaching the QB. Bookended with incumbent DE Andre Carter, Campbell could give the Redskins a pass-rushing combo the likes of which the franchise hasn't seen in many years.
22. Dallas Cowboys (from Cleveland) - Felix Jones, RB, Arkansas *
Jones has been overlooked by many due to the presence of Darren McFadden, but he will earn plenty of attention during the weeks leading up to the draft. He would be a particularly nice fit for the Cowboys, who are likely going to lose Julius Jones to free agency but have Marion Barber, III as a restricted free agent they can very likely keep.
While Barber is a bruiser, Jones would be a great contrast, given that he's 6'0", 200 pounds, and he ran a 4.47 40 at the combine. Felix Jones has feature back ability, and he would be a great pickup by the Cowboys. Jonathan Stewart may also be a consideration for this spot, but with him undergoing toe surgery, he might slide behind Jones, particularly on a Dallas team that wants two healthy RBs going into the season.
23. Pittsburgh Steelers - Branden Albert, OG, Virginia
There has been quite a bit of buzz surrounding Albert in recent weeks, with some speculation placing him as high as going #5 overall to Kansas City. That seems excessive to me, particularly in such a strong draft for offensive linemen, but there are many observers who are bullish on Albert.
By the same token, he's an offensive guard by trade. And while he could shift to offensive tackle, he would be an ideal fit for Pittsburgh at guard, where the Steelers need to replace Alan Faneca, who left via free agency.