April 23, 2008

Preview of the 2008 NFL Draft

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This Saturday, the sun will be shining and students all over campus will be playing outside. But at 3:00 p.m sharp, diehard NFL fans like me will instead be sitting inside tuned to ESPN, waiting for Commissioner Roger Goodell to officially announce that the Miami Dolphins are on the clock, beginning the 2008 NFL Draft.
This year’s draft is notable for a few reasons. One is that for the first time: it will start at 3:00 and not noon. Also, teams will have 10 minutes to make their first-round picks, as opposed to the usual 15. Lastly, an offensive tackle will be chosen No. 1 for only the third time in history. The draft is almost impossible to predict, especially this year, but that does not stop every news publication in the country from making a mock draft. Here is the Daily Sun’s version:
1. Miami Dolphins – Jake Long, OT, Michigan – Over this draft process, Bill Parcells was as difficult to read as Dostoevsky. First, there were reports that Parcells was negotiating with Long’s agent. Then, there were rumors that Long didn’t want to play for Miami. Next, general manager Jeff Ireland said he was going to draft a “pillar of [his] defense” but then dismissed it as a Freudian slip. Yesterday, though, the Dolphins officially signed Long, who Parcells compares to former bookend Jumbo Elliot.
2. St. Louis Rams – Chris Long, DE, Virginia – Most people know Howie Long as the FOX analyst who along with Terry Bradshaw makes Jimmy Johnson sound like John Nash. But Long was once a great football player with a very high football IQ. His oldest son Chris is the same way. Many people regard the younger Long to be the best player in this draft, as he can play in the 3-4 or the 4-3, has perfect technique and has a good mind for the game. Drafting Long here would also ensure that two unrelated players with the same last name go No. 1 and No. 2 in the draft.
3. Atlanta Falcons – Matt Ryan, QB, Boston College – A little over a year ago, Atlanta had two solid quarterbacks, Matt Schaub and Michael Vick. But they traded Schaub to Houston, and Vick is, um, otherwise engaged. So the Falcons need to start over. They are a long way from contending, so they might as well pick the consensus top quarterback in this draft.
4. Oakland Raiders – Darren McFadden, HB, Arkansas – McFadden will probably go somewhere from No. 4 to No. 9, mostly because of concerns about his character. But the Raiders have never had a problem taking players with character issues, and I can see Al Davis yearning for a star running back, over coach Lane Kiffin’s possible objections.
5. Kansas City Chiefs – Ryan Clady, OT, Boise State – I originally had Glenn Dorsey here, then I changed the selection to Branden Albert. Now, though, I think that Clady will be the pick. The Chiefs like to run the ball, and many consider Clady to be the second-best offensive lineman in the draft.
6. New York Jets – Vernon Gholston, DE, Ohio State – The best-case scenario for my beloved Jets is to either trade down or select one of the Longs, McFadden or Gholston. If all four players are gone by No. 6, it will force New York to reach for a cornerback or a defensive lineman who does not fit in the 3-4 defense. Even though the Jets signed Calvin Pace earlier in the offseason, Gholston will most likely play a hybrid DE/OLB on the other side of the defense. Along with D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Gholston would also give New York two of the best names in football.
7. New England Patriots – Glenn Dorsey, DT, LSU – Even though Patriots haters cheered when New England lost its first round draft pick due to Spygate, they inevitably cried when they found out that the Patriots also had the 49ers’ first rounder, which ended up at No. 7. Because the Patriots are stacked at most positions, they will look to make a trade down even though there has not been a trade involving a top-7 pick since 2003. Teams yearning for an impact defensive tackle will be earnestly calling Bill Belichick to try and acquire Dorsey, who does not fit in the Patriots’ 3-4 system.
8. Baltimore Ravens – Sedrick Ellis, DT, USC – Baltimore really, really, really wants Matt Ryan, especially after Steve McNair’s unexpected retirement. Unfortunately for the Ravens, if Matt Ryan is gone, there is no signal caller worth taking with the No. 8 pick. Therefore, Baltimore would be smart to draft Ellis, who is one of the elite defensive players in this draft.
9. Cincinnati Bengals – Keith Rivers, LB, USC – Many Bengals fans probably want their team to draft a wide receiver, after the Chad Johnson and Chris Henry soap operas. But Cincinnati still has T.J. Houshmandzadeh, one of the best receivers in the game. The Bengals need to shore up their defense and acquire a player who isn’t going to nickname himself after his number or get arrested with marijuana in his shoes.
10. New Orleans Saints – Leodis McKelvin, CB, Troy – There are lots of rumors that New Orleans is trying to trade up, but the team has a serious need a cornerback. Right now, McKelvin is probably the best regarded of all the secondary prospects, so he would make sense at this spot for the Saints.
11. Buffalo Bills – Devin Thomas, WR, Michigan State – Upstate New York’s finest need to bolster their offense before the team inevitably moves to Toronto. Thomas is shooting up draft boards recently, and I think that Buffalo will overlook more pressing needs on defense to select him.
12. Denver Broncos – Branden Albert, G/OT, Virginia – Mike Shanahan is the czar of the zone blocking scheme, but to have a good running game, he needs a good line. Albert played guard in college, but he can probably play both guard and tackle in the NFL.
13. Carolina Panthers – Derrick Harvery, DE, Florida – Even though the Panthers have Julius Peppers, they will want to get an insurance policy if Peppers leaves after this season. Harvey had a great workout and will be a dynamic defensive player.
14. Chicago Bears – Jeff Otah, OT, Pittsburgh – I am sure that Bears fans would love a quarterback to replace Rex Grossman. But with Matt Ryan off the board, it is too early to reach for another quarterback like Joe Flacco, Chad Henne or Brian Brohm. So Chicago will do the next best thing – find a good tackle to protect Sexy Rexy.
15. Detroit Lions – Rashard Mendenhall, HB, Illinois – News flash – Detroit might actually not take a wide receiver for once. The Lions want to start to build around running and defense, especially with offensive coordinator Mike Martz gone, so they will take the second-best running back in the draft.
16. Arizona Cardinals – Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB, Tenn. St. – The Cardinals need help on defense, especially in the defensive backfield. Cromartie, cousin of the Chargers’ standout Antonio Cromartie, will fit the bill and be a good complement to Antrel Rolle.
17. Minnesota Vikings – Aqib Talib, CB, Kansas – The Vikings would love to get a receiver to help out quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, but Malcolm Kelly is a slight reach. It seems like every team in this draft could use some cornerback help, and Talib had a great season for surprise Kansas.
18. Houston Texans – Jonathan Stewart, HB, Oregon – I was tempted to select yet another cornerback, but I think that Houston will instead look for offense. The Texans were a surprise team last year and Stewart will help out quarterback Matt Schaub.
19. Philadelphia Eagles – Chris Williams, OT, Vanderbilt – The Eagles have used their first-round pick on offensive or defensive linemen 13 times in the last 16 years, and I don’t think this year will be any different. Donovan McNabb has been banged up the past few years, so I think Philadelphia will want to protect him with a solid tackle.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Malcolm Kelly, WR, Oklahoma – I originally had Kelly in the top-10, but he had a much-publicized, very poor workout last week. Given the ensuing negative reaction, one would have thought that Kelly had directed last week’s critically-mauled Al Pacino film 88 Minutes. I don’t think he will fall too far, though, and Jon Gruden will snap him up.
21. Washington Redskins – Phillip Merling, DE, Clemson – The Redskins could use a wide receiver, but with Thomas and Kelly gone, no one is worth taking at this spot in the draft. Instead, they will shore up their defense with Merling if they are not concerned about his sports hernia.
22. Dallas Cowboys – Felix Jones, HB, Arkansas – Guess where Cowboys owner Jerry Jones went to college? Ding, ding, ding – Arkansas! Jones covets McFadden, but he will be long gone by No. 22. Instead, Dallas will get the next best thing in Jones.
23. Pittsburgh Steelers – James Hardy, WR, Indiana – James Hardy’s stock has been all over the place lately, but I think that because the receivers in the draft are not top-heavy, teams will reach for players that would be second-round picks in other years, such as Hardy.
24. Tennessee Titans – Kentwan Balmer, DT, North Carolina – Last year, starting defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth proved that he was more than a head case and one of the best defensive tackles in the league. Pairing him with Balmer would give the Titans a lethal combination up the middle and would provide insurance if Haynesworth leaves as a free agent.
25. Seattle Seahawks – DeSean Jackson, WR, California – The Seahawks’ offense took a step in the wrong direction last year, and was bailed out by the team’s surprising defense. By drafting Jackson, a fast, big-play receiver who can also return punts, Seattle will give Matt Hasselbeck a target he has lacked for years.
26. Jacksonville Jaguars – Gosder Cherilus, OT, Boston College – You know it is a crazy year when someone named Gosder does not even have one of the top-3 names in the draft. Cherilus projects as a solid right tackle that can help Fred Taylor improve on his bounce-back season last year.
27. San Diego Chargers – Limas Sweed, WR, Texas – The Chargers could use a replacement for Michael Turner, but with Mendenhall and Stewart off the board, it is too early to reach for guys like Jamaal Charles or Ray Rice. The Chargers could use a big target like Sweed to complement Vincent Jackson.
28. Dallas Cowboys – Mike Jenkins, CB, South Florida – Cowboys fans are probably freaking out about the possibility of acquiring Pacman Jones. But with the chances of Jones being reinstated before the season becoming less likely, Dallas will probably build the secondary through the draft instead. Even though Jenkins was arrested for disorderly conduct in 2007, he seems like the Dalai Lama when compared with Jones.
29. San Francisco 49ers – Jerod Mayo, LB, Tennessee – The 49ers would throw a huge party if Mayo is still available this late in the first round. Mayo would join middle linebacker Patrick Willis to form a deadly combination in San Francisco’s 3-4 defense.
30. Green Bay Packers – Brandon Flowers, CB, Virginia Tech – Flowers will be the last of many corners taken in the first round this year. The Packers will count on him to initially be the nickel back and ultimately replace Charles Woodson or Al Harris.
31. New England Patriots – Pick Forfeited – Apparently the Patriots spied on the Jets or something. I am not really sure; has ESPN talked about this at all?
32. New York Giants – Mario Manningham, WR, Michigan – Contrary to popular belief, Amani Toomer cannot last forever. Since I am not convinced that Steve Smith is the answer to ultimately replace him, the Giants should take a receiver like Manningham here.