Much of the board will change between now and April, but here’s my first look at the first two rounds.
1. Oakland - JaMarcus Russell, QB LSU
The NFL is a quarterback-driven league and Oakland doesn’t have one. Owner Al Davis always loves players who have eye-popping physical stats and will naturally fall in love with Russell’s size, arm and athletic ability.
2. Detroit - Brady Quinn, QB Notre Dame
Somehow current QB Jon Kitna managed to throw for over 4,000 yards, but he still threw more interceptions than touchdowns and is merely a stop-gap player. If the Lions are ever going to turn their franchise around, it has to start with a premier player like Quinn. His ability and experience in Charlie Weis’ offense make him a franchise player.
3. Cleveland - Calvin Johnson, WR Georgia Tech
Pick three is where things will get interesting. The Browns could opt for LT Joe Thomas or DT Alan Branch, but Johnson is the highest player on the board (and is rated number one on most boards). Receiver Braylon Edwards is solid, but Joe Jurevicious is over 30. At 6’4” 220 and with legit 4.4-speed, Johnson can make Cleveland’s perimeter weapons among the best in the league.
4. Tampa Bay - Jamaal Anderson, DE Arkansas
After notching 13.5 sacks to lead the SEC last year, Anderson decided the time was right to declare for the Draft - much to the delight of NFL teams. With a 6’6” 260 pound body, he looks the part and should be an immediate starter for the Bucs, who are expected to let veteran DE Simeon Rice go.
5. Arizona - Joe Thomas, OT Wisconsin
If the board falls this way, the Cards will be among the happiest teams in Round 1. No team needs offensive line talent like Arizona does and grabbing Thomas, a dominating left tackle for the past two years, is a no-brainer. He’d instantly be the best player on an offensive line that needs significant improvement.
6. Washington - Gaines Adams, DE Clemson
Obtaining a defensive end seems to be the consensus pick for Washington among most of the NFL media and for once they all may be right. The Redskins are far too old and unproductive on the outside and desperately need an edge rusher to apply pressure on the quarterback. Adams has been at the top of the DE rankings for the past two years and can help immediately.
7. Minnesota - Ted Ginn, WR Ohio State
Former #1 pick Troy Williamson has disappointed thus far and adding a premier playmaker is always a good move. Ginn has been the most dangerous on the field for the majority of his college career and although he lacks elite size, his speed and return ability will earn him a pick in the top 10.
8. Houston - Adrian Peterson, RB Oklahoma
If last year’s #1 overall pick, DE Mario Williams, would’ve had a 10-sack season, the Texans would be laughing in everyone’s face about passing over RB Reggie Bush last year. Unfortunately for Houston, Williams didn’t have the immediate impact they’d hoped for, but they can still take Peterson. He has the size and ability to be a Pro Bowl running back and take some pressure off of QB David Carr.
9. Miami - Alan Branch, DT Michigan
Branch may not fall this far in April, but if he’s on the board and the Dolphins are on the clock, some intern is going to be running up to the podium with this pick. Branch has elite size (6’5” 330) and pushes people around. Whether he’s asked to get up-field or take on blockers, he has the ability to do both at en elite level. This move also brings some much needed youth to a defensive line that’s approaching AARP status.
10. Atlanta - Amobi Okoye, DT Louisville
How can you not be impressed by this kid? At only 19 years old, Okoye’s already notched 4 starting seasons at the Division 1 level and just made a mockery of Senior Bowl offensive lineman. He’s a bit light (recently under 290), but he’s just a pup and will excel in a 1-gap defense.
11. San Francisco - Dwayne Jarrett, WR USC
Jarrett will have to run under 4.5 to earn this pick, but if he does the Niners would be wise to take him. His 6’5” 215 size and hands make him a dangerous weapon, especially for a team lacking premier weapons on the outside.
12. Buffalo - Leon Hall, CB Michigan
The Bills are expected to lose CB Nate Clements via free agency and finding a replacement will be a necessity. Hall is the most complete corner in this year’s Draft and would’ve been a Round 1 pick had he come out last year.
13. St. Louis - Dwayne Bowe, WR LSU
The combination of Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce has been extremely good for the Rams, but Bruce has slowed down considerably and adding a true starter opposite Holt is necessary. Bowe has solid size (6’2” 220), great hands and is a solid route runner. He had a very solid showing at the Senior Bowl and looks to have a nice future.
14. Carolina - Adam Carriker, DE Nebraska
Another player who had a very nice Senior Bowl, Carriker’s a guy who jumps out at you on tape. He’s huge (6’6” 290) and uses his hands extremely well to gain separation from would-be blockers. While he’s capable of notching double-digit sacks at the next level, his overall play is what will earn him this pick.
15. Pittsburgh - Anthony Spencer, DE/OLB Purdue
It’s uncertain whether new head coach Mike Tomlin will keep Pittsburgh’s 3-4 defense or make the switch to the 4-3 defense he’s become accustomed to. However, Spencer’s flexible enough to play OLB in a 3-4 or as a RE in the 4-3. He should have an impact wherever he lines up and will get every chance to start.
16. Green Bay - Daymeion Hughes, CB Cal
Hughes’ lack of elite speed will drop him a bit, but not too far. The Packers’ defense improved last year thanks to some solid draft picks and free agent signings, but Hughes would add another piece to the puzzle. He has good size (5’11” 188), instincts and makes plays on the ball. Veteran corners Al Harris and Charles Woodson will start, but Hughes would be a nice move for the future.
17. Jacksonville - LaRon Landry, S LSU
Starting free safety Deon Grant may leave via free agency, but even if he stays, this team could use a player like Landry. Strong safety Donovin Darius has been a valuable player for the Jags, but he’s not the youngest guy on the field anymore. Landry’s production has been consistent and he’d have been taken in Round 1 last year if he turned pro. He needs to work on catching the ball, but he’s a solid prospect.
18. Cincinnati - Levi Brown, OT Penn State
The Bengals really want a defensive tackle, but none are worthy of this pick. A defensive end also might be a possibility, but Brown offers a ton of flexibility. He can play tackle or guard at a high level, works hard and would be a nice addition on an offensive line that had serious injury problems last year. It should also be noted that LG Eric Steinbach is a free agent, and despite his All Pro status, RT Willie Anderson can’t play forever.
19. Tennessee - Robert Meachem, WR Tennessee
Expect Meachem to have a Donte Stallworth-like workout session, thereby sky-rocketing him up Draft boards. He has good size (6’3” 200) and had tremendous numbers last year, but he’ll have to work on his consistency at the next level.
20. New York Giants - Marshawn Lynch, RB Cal
Brandon Jacobs is a very nice change-of-pace and goaline back for the G-Men, but Lynch is the complete package. He has good size, vision and has been very productive throughout his entire career. This selection makes sense for a team trying to replace Tiki Barber.
21. Denver - Reggie Nelson, S Florida
One of the best defenders in college last year, Nelson has is the epitome of a ball hawking center fielder. He has solid instincts, playmaking ability and covers a ton of ground.
22. Dallas - Jarvis Moss, DE/OLB Florida
The last two years America’s team has taken two outside linebackers in the Draft’s first round (DeMarcus Ware and Bobby Carpenter), but after they lost Greg Ellis to injury and the season dragged on, they lost their pass rush. Moss is cat-quick and can play as a 4-3 end or a standup LB in a 3-4. It’s not the biggest need for the Cowboys, but a solid pick nonetheless.
23. Kansas City - Sidney Rice, WR South Carolina
Rice definitely passes the eyeball test. He’s 6’4” 210 and should run in the 4.4 range. But despite two solid years for the Gamecocks, he’s still raw and will need time to develop. On a team sorely lacking elite receiver talent, the Chiefs might be willing to wait.
24. New England (from Seattle) - Patrick Willis, MLB Mississippi
An absolute stud that makes plays all over the field, Willis would be a tremendous asset for the Pats. As their current linebackers keep aging, Willis would be a nice pick for the future, but with the instincts and ability to get on the field immediately.
25. New York Jets - Quentin Moses, DE/OLB Georgia
Highly rated as a Junior, Moses disappointed this season and had scouts scratching their heads. He’s athletic enough to play on the outside in Eric Mangini’s 3-4 defense, but could also put his hand down in obvious passing situations.
26. Philadelphia - Lawrence Timmons, LB Florida State
Amazing athlete that explodes into ball carriers, Timmons is only 20 years old and definitely has his best football ahead of him. The Eagles have been burned on outside linebackers recently, but that shouldn’t deter them from taking a hard look at Timmons, a linebacker that can play either outside spot.
27. New Orleans - Darrelle Revis, CB Pitt
Solidly built, two-time All-Big East player that has upside, Revis is finally starting to turn some heads. He may need a season to crack the starting lineup, but will be given an opportunity to start and can be a factor in the return game.
28. New England - Paul Posluszny, LB Penn State
How do you fix an aging LB unit? Draft two in the first round. Posluszny has always been a bit overrated to me, but his production is absolutely undeniable. He isn’t the most athletic player on the field, but he’s one of the most instinctive and can have an impact as a rookie.
29. Baltimore - Tony Ugoh, OT Arkansas
Not a sexy pick, but one that’s needed. Ugoh’s been moving up boards all season. He’s athletic, has above average feet and can get to the second tier of the defense. With LT Jonathan Ogden considering retirement and the right side in a state of flux, Ugoh’s a nice pick.
30. San Diego - Brandon Meriweather, S Miami
The University of Miami keeps the “Draft streak” alive as Meriweather sneaks into Round 1. A very solid athlete that can man slot receivers and cover ground in a zone defense, Meriweather makes sense for the Chargers, who’ve struggled in coverage.
31. Chicago - Zach Miller, TE Arizona State
Most scouts thought the Bears would’ve pulled the trigger on a tight end last year, but they didn’t. Is this the year they finally get one to open up their offense? For their sake, I hope they look at Miller, who’s drawing comparisons to former Sun Devil Todd Heap. I don’t think he’s that good, but he’s pretty close.
32. Indianapolis - Tank Tyler, DT N.C. State
Head coach Tony Dungy finally rallied his troops into stopping the run during the playoffs, but that doesn’t mean the problem is fixed. Defensive tackles Booger McFarland and Corey Simon aren’t locks to be back, and even if they are, they need some help. Tyler’s been inconsistent, but he has the size (6’2” 315) that’s needed in the middle.
33. Detroit - Charles Johnson, DE Georgia
34. Oakland - Kenny Irons, RB Auburn
35. Tampa Bay - Aaron Ross, CB Texas
36. Cleveland - Marcus McCauley, CB Fresno State
37. Arizona - Aaron Sears, G/T Tennessee
38. New York Jets (from Washington) - Greg Olsen, TE Miami
39. Minnesota - Lamar Woodley, DE/OLB Michigan
40. Houston - Tanard Jackson, CB Syracuse
41. Miami - Ben Grubbs, G Auburn
42. Atlanta - Anthony Gonzalez, WR Ohio State
43. San Francisco - Chris Houston, CB Arkansas
44. Buffalo - Justin Blalock, G/T Texas
45. St. Louis - Tim Crowder, DE Texas
46. Carolina - Brandon Siler, LB Florida
47. Pittsburgh - Ray McDonald, DE Florida
48. Green Bay - Ryan Kalil, C USC
49. Jacksonville - Victor Abiamiri, DE Notre Dame
50. Cincinnati - Michael Griffin, S Texas
51. Tennessee - Joe Staley, OT Central Michigan
52. New York Giants - Brandon Mebane, DT Cal
53. Denver - Ryan Harris, OT Notre Dame
54. Dallas - Aundrae Allison, WR East Carolina
55. Kansas City - Ray McDonald, DT/DE Florida
56. Seattle - Josh Beekman, G Boston College
57. New York Jets - Ryan McBean, DT Oklahoma State
58. Philadelphia - Drew Stanton, QB Michigan State
59. New Orleans - Jay Moore, DE Nebraska
60. New England - Brian Leonard, RB Rutgers
61. Baltimore - Troy Smith, QB Ohio State
62. San Diego Chargers - Earl Everett, LB Florida
63. Chicago - Marcus Thomas, DT Florida
64. Indianapolis - Rufus Alexander, LB Oklahoma