2009 NFL Mock Draft: #1

Updated on January 19, 2009

I’m dancing in the streets a little – it’s always nice to see something you never thought would happen, and until Ken Whisenhunt was tricked into coaching the Cardinals, I didn’t think I’d ever see that red jersey and helmet sporting that angry woodpecker in a Super Bowl game. But here we are, a Pittsburgh Steelers team that has won as many championships as any team ever, and an Arizona Cardinals team that looks for a ring for the first time. Awesome. But that pretty much locks up my first full mock draft. I’ll compile the draft as if the Cardinals pull off the huge upset, because, well, they’ve done it 3 times already and I’d be stunned if they did it again – so it will probably happen. The new mock draft is also coming out because the early entry list is locked in and the draft order is basically set. I’m done with my “If I’m making the picks” format because I can really do both predictions and analysis by suggesting what I think the Draft will look like- still, I agree with my ability to judge talent, and a couple teams definitely should call me up for some advice… Haha…  Here goes the goods…

1. Detroit Lions: Andre Smith, OT, Alabama – This pick is exactly what the Lions need, and that’s how I’m doing my first mock draft. This is a team that has gone kookoo over the skill positions and they have been brutal on offensive and defensive lines. I’m sold on the thought that Detroit will get a good football guy to make their personnel decisions and that will lead them away from 1st Round receivers, quarterbacks, or running backs. Andre Smith might not be the guy making the best decisions (getting hooked up with an agent a couple days before his team’s big bowl game) but he is a beast of a man that dominated at the college level. If the Lions want to properly use Calvin Johnson and Kevin Smith, arguably their best players, they’ll have to get some time to throw and room to run. Matthew Stafford (the consensus pick here) has all the tools, but without a better offensive line the Lions will continue to get destroyed. Do the right thing Detroit, go big here, Smith is your guy.

2. St. Louis Rams – Matthew Stafford, QB, Georgia – The Rams have lots of problems, no doubt in my mind, they would happily take Smith if he were available here – but he’s not, and nobody wants to trade into the 2nd pick so it’s not like they’ll find a valuable trading partner for the pick. That being said, Matt Stafford is the guy with all the tools that Marc Bulger doesn’t have, end the Marc Bulger experiment…. please.  I personally like Mark Sanchez a little more than Stafford – but the tools Stafford has can’t be taught, and while the Rams need more than a QB in the waiting, the #2 pick is a place where immense talent needs to be selected.

3. Kansas City Chiefs:  Aaron Curry, OLB, Wake Forrest – I don’t think the Chiefs go quarterback here – it’s stupid, A, and B- Tyler Thigpen played great when he got a chance to do so. Just ride out this guy for a while and hope that you hit the lotto with the kid, weirder things have happened. Plus, with a 30th ranked rushing defense and a 28th ranked passing defense, they might consider getting some dynamic help on that side of the ball first. Still, with Bradford and Stafford on the board it’s tough for me to pass up a chance at a franchise QB, but I’m going to, because I’m smart. Thigpen is good enough right now, he’s got a little something that I like as the guy in charge of my roster, so I’m taking Aaron Curry to be a playmaker on my defense. This guy is one of the surest things in the draft, a football player through and through, and he bleeds intensity. The Chiefs have some speed in their linebacking corps, but they don’t have a guy like this and he’ll immediately come in and make everyone better. This may be a little high for a linebacker, and probably higher than Curry will go, but I’ll take him because I’m looking for the guy that will improve the Chiefs the most, and they need a guy like Aaron.

4. Seattle Seahawks: Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech  – The Hawks need offensive line help badly. I know Michael Crabtree is out there and every single Hawk fan in the world wants Seattle to go get the big stud receiver from Texas Tech – I love Crabtree, think he’ll be  a great one, but you can only win if you have a good offensive line. Monroe is the smart pick – or maybe Jason Smith, and both should be here for the Seahawks taking – but in the end I just can’t pass up on the chance to get an elite playmaker for the Hawks offense. People (like me) will say that Seattle never makes a pick like this, that they have a smart brass that knows how to pick right, that they wouldn’t go skill position at the top of the draft – but, in the end, history is just that – history. Right now is the now, and with that in mind, and the future in the eyes of the same guy that’s watching Crabtree work out, watching him torch defenses at will – watching him become a version of TO without the assish tendencies, I don’t think the Hawks can pass that up – not with the guys they have. Taking skill position guys at the top of the draft can be a recipe for losses to build. You spend too much money on a receiver and it will hurt you in the end if that player doesn’t become great. But I think the Hawks need to go for it.

5. Cleveland Browns:  Malcom Jenkins, CB, Ohio State – The Browns secondary and overall defense was brutal last season. Weird, they went and spent a bunch of money on high-priced free agents and they still got kicked around pretty good. A lot of that has to do with their offense going 3 and out a lot, and putting the defense in bad situations, but still – tackling and angles were tough to come by in Cleveland and I think Jenkins comes in and starts immediately for the Browns. He’s as sure as a corner back can be in helping the run. He’s got great understanding and recognition, things that plague the Browns secondary.

6. Cincinnati Bengals: Aaron Maybin, DE, Penn State – The Bengals need a lot of help in a lot of places, weird. But with Stacey Andrews struggling a bit and his knee giving him problem, and a visit with the doctor for re-constructive surgery in mid-January, it might be time to get a young stud to protect their biggest investment, Carson Palmer. Everyone watched what happened to the Bengals without Palmer – protecting him next season might be a good start. Eugene Monroe has proven he can start anywhere. He’s an athletic kid that held down left tackle for Virginia, and he could do the same in Cincinnati. Either way, I think Monroe would be a good pick this high, a need pick and a talent pick and a good use of their money – But lets just say (for the sake of good health and positive thinking) that the Bengals elect to re-sign Andrews (and they very well could because of his youth and possible good news on the diagnosis of his knee surgery) then they might elect to go for a pass rushing specialist like Everett Brown, Brian Orakpo, or Aaron Maybin – going for the health of the young right tackle, Aaron Maybin goes off the board here because his motor and upside are impressive.

7. Oakland Raiders: Jeremy Maclin, WR, Missouri – Rey Maualuga is a machine. The Raiders need a guy like him just about as bad as anything – well, aside from a new coaching staff and a new owner and a guy to bring in talent on draft day that doesn’t base everything on some lifting and speed numbers – so they need a lot of things, but a sure tackler at linebacker, and big time playmaker, a special and California taught local kid like Maualuga – I think they’d have something going if they went here. However, I know the Raiders – and Jeremy Maclin or Crabtree (if he lasts) might get pushed to Oakland. I have this eery feeling that if Maclin is on the board for Oakland that he’ll be wearing black and silver come next season. It’s sad for Jeremy – but it’s probably true.

8. Jacksonville Jaguars: Eugene Monroe, OT, Virginia – While Michael Oher is a stud, he has shown a lack of focus at times. He’s been beat by lesser defensive ends, and while the talent is obviously there, Oher’s lack of consistency might hurt him in the draft. I have that happening here as Eugene Monroe will get ahead of Oher on draft boards and be the first off the board after Andre Smith. If Maclin is on the board here, the Jaguars might be tempted – they have shown a history of going and reaching for their biggest needs, and they definitely need a playmaker outside. But the Jaguars showed some offensive line (and defensive line for that matter) woes in 2008. Maurice Jones Drew is still phenomenal and David Garrard didn’t have as bad of a season as his numbers insisted, but this team needs some help on their respective lines. Monroe has the ability to get plugged in anywhere he’s needed, and he’ll immediately improve that position. That’s rare in the NFL these days, and even tougher to get in the draft. For a team that needs to reestablish their rushing identity, the Jags could make a great pick right here. Many people expect the Jaguars to go linebacker here, but there’s room to rummage through the next couple rounds to find a playmaker there. The top O-Tackles, while the position is deep, will be gone long before the Jags pick again.

9.  Green Bay Packers: Everett Brown, DE, Florida State – The Packers need to revamp their defensive front. I think Aaron Kampman is a stud, but he needs some help and I think Everett Brown can be a special contributor up front for the Packers. They need help getting to the quarterback and stopping the run. Basically they were a liability on defense. They have plenty of weapons on offense, and while every team could always use help on the line, this pick seems like a no brainer for the Pack – but it could be one of the many defensive end prospects in the draft. I also think that this spot, and this mock, would have the Packers being in a great position with someone who wanted to trade down to get Mark Sanchez – ie the Minnesota Vikings. No trades in my mock though, too tough to figure, so I’ll go with one of the more talent kids out there.

10. San Francisco 49ers:  Mark Sanchez, QB, USC – I like Shaun Hill, like I said in my first mock, but Sanchez is a stud – he has a lightning quick release, great leadership qualities, and a passion for the game that fits perfectly with Mike Singletary’s system. Could the 49ers go in about a million different directions? You bet… Could one of those directions be not re-signing Takeo Spikes and maybe going with Rey Maualuga to form one of the best middle linebacker duos in all of football? Possibly, Rey seems like a Mike kind of guy, but he also seems a lot like Patrick Willis (but could it be bad to have two of him?). Shaun Hill is a solid guy right now, he does enough to keep San Francisco in the game, but Sanchez has tools to be a top pick, and very well could be, but right now I like him going to SF at 10 because that’s a great place to get your future signal caller and not have to play him right off the bat. If Sanchez isn’t their guy, and they love Orakpo, Michael Johnson of Georgia Tech, Maybin or Brown if they are there, don’t be surprised if the Niners snag a pass rusher.

11. Buffalo Bills: Brian Orakpo, DE, Texas – The Bills need more help on the defensive line. They started off the year okay, but they don’t make enough plays and they don’t have any one player that poses an elite pass rushing skill set. Okay, Aaron Schobel is a guy that has some good career numbers, but he spent much of 2008 hurt and is on the wrong side of 30 and the small side of 250lbs. I really like Micheal Johnson of Georgia Tech, but Orakpo is probably the more complete of the two, and the Bills could use that.

12. Denver Broncos: B.J. Raji, DT, Boston College – The Broncos have been brutal at stopping the run for sometime, and it’s very likely that Mike Shannahan’s insistence on grabbing opposing teams leftovers instead of drafting some help up front is what got him fired in the first place. I expect new HC Josh McDaniels to do his damnedest to strengthen the defensive front, and starting with a massive defensive lineman that will free up linebackers while putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks is probably a good start. McDaniels is and offensive mind, no doubt about that, but he’s also a smart guy and while assessing team needs he’ll vouch for the teams offensive firepower and express some worry about that line…  Raji’s 6.5 sacks and numerous runs stuffed will certainly help Denver’s front – character issues might hurt Raji’s stock, but in Denver’s move to the 3-4 they’ll need a player of Raji’s strength to hold down the middle.

13. Washington Redskins: Jason Smith, OT, Baylor – The Redskins will be lucky if they get an offensive line prospect like Jason Smith. The kid knows how to play the game and he really does it right. I think he’s a better pass blocker than Andre Smith, and his athleticism is second to none. At 6’5 305lbs, he’s got room to grow into his body a little bit. He’s not super strong, but that will come – his feet are great and his energy and ability to stay on blocks long are two things that he has over any other elite tackle prospect in the draft. A steal at 13.

14. New Orleans Saints: Vontae Davis, CB, Illinois – Defense, defense, defense. As much as Jeremy Maclin’s speed has to excite this offensive minded freak of a coach in New Orleans, it’s not offensive deficiencies that keep the Saints from getting into the playoffs. Defensively they are brutal, they don’t have much of an identity except that of a team that allows opposing offenses to do anything they damn well please. That’s not a good thing. Right now, the Saints don’t have corners that get the job done. They don’t tackle all that well, and find themselves in positions to make tackles far too often. As far as talent and confidence go, Davis is a corner that comes second to none. He’s a physical kid that likes to get into opposing receivers. He hasn’t had a ton of interceptions at the college level, but I’m going to go ahead and say that’s because opposing offenses don’t throw his way. He may have been too aggressive in college, being allowed to do too much on the field. He’ll get the little things down, but I like what he does have and think he would start immediately for New Orleans.

15. Houston Texans: Michael Johnson, DE, Georgia Tech – How can you play an entire season on the other side of Mario Williams and have absolutely zero sacks to show for it? Weaver is a better run defensive end than a pass rusher, but 0 sacks? Yikes. Johnson might be a little bit of a reach here – but the kid is a freakish pass rusher that could start out helping right away as a pass rush specialist and he has the body to add weight and become a full time guy over time.  The Texans could really use a pass rush option opposite their big dog. With much attention played to their former 1st overall pick, Johnson could find a lot of room to be the playmaker that he is. This would do wonders for the other half of Houston’s defensive line.

16. San Diego Chargers: Chris “Beanie” Wells, RB, Ohio State – If the Chargers are indeed getting rid of LaDainian Tomlinson, for age and contract reasons, I think Wells would be a perfect fit to get half of the carries in a time share with Darren Sproles. I, personally, would just keep Tomlinson for another year, go for some offensive line or defensive help here, and grab a running back in next season’s draft or in the later rounds, but I’m taking the plunge here because of Wells ability. Basically, I don’t like taking skill guys early, but Wells has special size, explosion, and speed – and while Sproles has shown a knack for the big play, there is no way he holds up through a season getting 15-20 carries per game. I make exceptions for special players, and while Wells’ injury problems might scare some teams off, I happen to believe that you go for the talent and if freak injuries happen you just got unlucky. If LT is re-signed, I think the Chargers should make a play on

17. New York Jets: Rey Maualuga, LB, USC- To get a guy that can make a difference like Maualuga is always a draft day blessing. To get him in the middle of the 1st round is even more impressive. Can he be Rex Ryan’s New York Jet version of Ray Lewis? It’s possible. I’m not sure anyone this side of William Wallace has ever had as much passion, toughness, and straight super-hero ability like Ray Lewis, but if there’s a guy in this draft that looks anything like Ray, it’s Rey – and not just for names sake. The Jets need to get better defensively – but they could also make a play on a young running back if their top choice sits here. I think Thomas Jones and Leon Washington are good for now, and I think Ryan will be ready to get a defensive stopper right off the bat.

18. Chicago Bears: Michael Oher, OT, Mississippi – Nate Davis? Oh, I think this kid could surprise. But I’m not ready to make that jump quite yet – plus, the Bears “are happy with their quarterback situation” – right. The Bears look to be aging a little bit, and that means they could use all types of players. But if the super-talented Oher is still on the board at 18, the Bears snag him up without thinking twice.

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers:  Sen’Derrick Marks, DT, Auburn – Marks is a freak. He’s a superior athlete in the body of a defensive tackle. He’s not enormous, but his tenacity and elite quickness and coordination make him a great prospect and could very well allow him to be great at rushing the passer and making plays against the run. If the Bucs have shown me anything during their late slide that saw them go from 9-3 to 9-7 and missing the playoffs, it’s that they need help on the defensive line. Marks might be the best of the bunch and at 19th overall, he’s worth that risk.

20. Detroit Lions (via Dallas Cowboys):  James Laurinaitis, LB, Ohio State – The Lions need guys like this to do things like win a football game. James is a sure thing. You know what you’re getting, a great tackler, great team guy with the ability to stop the run, read blocks, get his teammates behind him and make everyone better. A great offensive lineman and a great linebacker to be a team leader on defense, that would be a great draft for a team that doesn’t know much about great drafts. The Lions need to stop taking chances and picking skill position players – teams are built on  guys that can block up front and get off blocks and tackle on defense – Andre and James are a good start.

21. Philadelphia Eagles: Knowshon Moreno, RB, Georgia – Knowshon Moreno, RB, Georgia – Brian Westbrook #2? After seeing what Brian Westbrook has become since the Eagles drafted the undersized back in the 3rd round years ago, I wouldn’t be stunned if they tried to get him. I know they aren’t a team that usually guns for the skill positions early, but Moreno is special and despite being a little undersized, could be a great option in making the transition to the days without Mr. Westbrook. The Eagles have seen Westy have injury troubles, day to day issues just about every other week, and his age is becoming a little bit of an issue. The Eagles have a bevy of vets, and they surely need to get younger on the offensive line and all over on defense, but this kid is an elite playmaker that you aren’t able to snag in Round 2.

22. Minnesota Vikings: Sean Smith, CB, Utah – Sean Smith played a little under the radar at Utah, but he was a great part of one of the best defenses in college football. He helped shut down the Alabama passing attack, and played good football against the run as well. Smith is an elite player from a small school. The Vikings would help improve their semi-shaky pass defense by adding the Utes ball hawk. Smith has unreal size for a corner, and has shown a knack for making big plays by either intercepting 5 passes or leading his team in passes broken up. Smith could shoot up draft boards after the combine.

23. New England Patriots: Alphonso Smith, CB, Wake Forest – The Patriots find themselves in an interesting place here, and free agency will definitely help decide where they go here. I know Smith is a great playmaker with lots of upside and the personality it takes to be good at the next level. I’m not sure if he fits perfectly into the Patriots system, but he definitely fits a need as almost every corner in New England will see free agency over the off-season. Smith does lots of good things, he’s got solid speed and breaks well on the ball.

24. Atlanta Falcons: Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Oklahoma State – The Falcons might not need Brandon Pettigrew to make life easier on Matt Ryan, but they could sure use him. He’s a good blocker and an even better pass catcher, but the bottom line is he does it all. He may not be a big play guy like Kellen Winslow or Jason Witten, but he’s a great blocker, probably the best blocking tight end in the class. He also has great hands and very good ball skills. He does it all. This guy is just the type of guy Atlanta (or any team in the league) needs.

25. Miami Dolphins: D.J. Moore, CB, Vanderbilt – The Dolphins need help in the secondary, and maybe all over their defense to be honest. They played better than they were early in the year in ’08, but fell apart a little toward the end and, in my opinion, better exemplified exactly what their biggest problems are. In an offensive heavy draft class, the Dolphins need to build defensively. Moore is a very talented player that shut down #1 receivers all season for Vanderbilt. He’s an opportunistic player with a playmaking ability that could help the Dolphins create turnovers defensively.

26. Baltimore Ravens: Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Maryland – While many people would like to point to Bey as being inconsistent and an underachiever in college, I would like to point to the poor quarterbacking in Maryland this last season. Bey is super talented and could definitely turn into a great pro. I like him more than most. I think he’d fit in in Baltimore, and be a big target that the Ravens need to pit with Mark Clayton and the aging Derrick Mason.

27. Philadelphia Eagles (via Carolina): Ebbin Britton, OT, Arizona – The Eagles need to get younger at lots of different places. Arizona’s offense was underrated this season, being stuck in the Pac-10, where even I admit was underrated. Britton has been road-grading paths for running backs over the last two seasons, and the Wildcats have been better than you’d think in that area. Britton is a big boy with some good quickness and a very football savvy demeanor. I think the Eagels would be bright to grab him before they really need an offensive tackle. Prep him for next season when age finally catches up with the green machine.

28. Indianapolis Colts: Peria Jerry, DT, Mississippi – The Colts really struggled to stop the run, with or without Bob Sanders, and if you can’t stop the run with that heat seeking missile aimed right at the hearts of running backs, then you have to do something a little different. Peria Jerry is a very good defensive tackle that plays with the intensity and knowhow needed to excel in the Colts system. They need to start filling holes if they want to return to the Super Bowl.

29. New York Giants: Percy Harvin, WR/RB, Florida – The Giants need more playmakers. Percy Harvin might be the shiniest playmaker in this draft of offensive firepower. Getting him at 29 would be great. The Giants need them some Percy Harvin just like Flordia does.

30. Tennessee Titans: Hakeem Nicks, WR, North Carolina – He doesn’t have as much upside as Darrius Heyward-Bey, but Nicks might be the better receiver in the NFL. Nicks runs solid routes, his hands or enforced with a special unique stick-em produced only by his body. That catch that everyone saw during the bowl season, that was amazing, but no way was that his only amazing catch. This kid is always open, and I think his game translates well to the next level. He would also make the 5th receiver selected in the first round, which seems like an unreal ammount – but with the lack of underclassmen coming out, and the overall mediocre feeling of this talent pool, matched with the heavy set of receivers and apt running backs, this could be a weird first round with receivers off early.

31. Pittsburgh Steelers: Tyson Jackson, DE, LSU – Beast. He may not be the “new” defensive end with the pass rushing forte and the speed and the basketball body, but Tyson is a run-stuffing fiend. A kid that is nearly 6’5″ and 300+ – he’s a beast. The Steelers could use a guy like that inside in their 3-4. They have pass rushers galore, and Tyson has above average talent for his size – that’s digable planet business right there.

32. Arizona Cardinals: Brian Cushing, LB, USC – This kid didn’t have great numbers on an impressive USC defense, but he is damn good at just about everything. He can turn in run in coverage, as he was often asked to do, and he can make big plays all over the field. He’s had some durability issues, but the Cardinals would make a good move grabbing a kid with Cushing’s upside – winning the Super Bowl gives you a chance to go with upside like Brian’s.