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While a number of talented quarterbacks are present in the NFL, it is important to focus on which quarterbacks are actually going to see the field in order to rank each team’s strength at that position.

This article takes each NFL team’s current quarterback situation and ranks it depending on which quarterbacks from that team are most likely to see playing time in 2009.

If a team has a clear-cut starter (e.g. Peyton Manning from the Colts) then they are ranked according to him alone.

On the contrary, if a team is mired in a quarterback controversy (e.g. Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson from the Browns) then both quarterbacks are taken into account when ranking their team.

Please read and react with what you think I got right and wrong.

With no further ado, here are the rankings!

32. Oakland Raiders – JaMarcus Russell
I’m not sure if this is commentary on the Oakland Raiders organization, JaMarcus Russell’s development as an NFL quarterback, or a depressing combination of both. Russell has been a disappointment so far in the NFL, mostly because the Raiders coaching staff is yet to let him open up the playbook (partially because, in all honesty, he isn’t quite capable of opening up the playbook). No worries though, because Al Davis drafted another 4.30 speed receiver for Russell to throw to… Yeah, that will help. Russell finished in the lower tier in nearly every passing statistic in 2008, and a repeat performance isn’t too far out of question.

31. Detroit Lions – Daunte Culpepper / Matthew Stafford

Daunte Culpepper is currently listed as the starter for the Detroit Lions. He has had some great seasons in the NFL, and is capable of winning, but his most important role now is teaching Matthew Stafford, or as the Lions’ front office calls Culpepper’s job, “making sure we don’t have another Joey Harrington fiasco.” Like they say, when you have two quarterbacks, you have no quarterback, and this will be the case in a number of cities in 2009, including Detroit.

30. New York Jets – Kellen Clemens / Mark Sanchez
Mark Sanchez is listed as the team’s starter on the Yahoo! Sports depth chart. However, the most recent reports out of Jets mini-camp have suggested that Clemens is outperforming Sanchez. The Jets know that Sanchez is the quarterback of the future, so it will be interesting to see how they handle his playing time in 2009. The reason that New York gets the nod over Detroit here is because both teams have a quarterback of the future, but in New York that quarterback will see the field a lot faster than in Detroit.

29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Byron Leftwich / Josh Freeman
This offseason, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers seemingly purged themselves of any semblance of their 2008 late season collapse. Jeff Garcia was cut loose in the fray, leaving the Buccos with no clear option at quarterback for 2009. Veteran Byron Leftwich is listed as the team’s starter, but it’s possible that his main role will be mentoring quarterback-of-the-future Josh Freeman. Keep in mind that while Leftwich has been a journeyman, he is only 28 years old. It will be interesting to see how the Buccaneers handle their quarterback situation this season. Regardless of who starts, it’s unlikely that the Bucs bank on their quarterback for victory any time soon.

28. Minnesota Vikings – Tarvaris Jackson / Sage Rosenfels
They say that competition breeds success. This is only possible, however, when there is at least one ideal choice to settle on. In Minnesota, the coaching staff will have to choose between a mediocre Tarvaris Jackson or an unproven Sage Rosenfels to lead the 2009 team. Jackson is known as a rusher with limited passing skills, but threw the ball well towards the end of 2008. Rosenfels, on the other hand, looked strong in the pocket while starting in Matt Schaub’s place in 2008. No matter which way the coaches go with this decision, don’t look for the Vikings to get much production from under center. They should be fine, however, as long as whoever they choose can hand the ball off to Adrian Peterson.

27. San Francisco – Shaun Hill / Alex Smith

Note to whoever is taking snaps in San Francisco: look for Michael Crabtree, he’ll be open. Shaun Hill played well in 2008, throwing for 2,000 yards, 13 touchdowns, and an 87.5 Quarterback Rating in a little more than half of a season. The question in San Francisco is, do you let the less-sexy choice in Shaun Hill keep the job or allow former No.1 overall pick Alex Smith to challenge him for it? Most likely, Hill will be under center for the Niners this year. However, the 49ers organization has made it clear that they have not ruled Alex Smith out of the Niners’ future quite yet. Hill has the talent to be an NFL quarterback (think Jon Kitna), and he might get the chance to prove it for an entire season.

26. Baltimore Ravens – Joe Flacco
Joe Flacco is a guy who got a lot of credit in 2008 for a lot of things he didn’t do. Flacco is a prototypical game manager quarterback, which fits perfectly on a team like Baltimore or Pittsburgh, but doesn’t say much about his individual skill set. Flacco completed 60% of his passes in 2008, but threw for only 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, while failing to top 3,000 passing yards. His 80.3 Quarterback Rating more accurately gauges his 2008 accomplishments, placing him 22nd in the NFL in that statistic. While he will not wow people in 2009, Flacco could grow more as a quarterback and become a potential threat by the end of the year.

25. Buffalo Bills – Trent Edwards
The good news if that the Bills got a talented receiver in Terrell Owens. The bad news is that the Bills also got a complete basketcase and quarterback-destroyer in Terrell Owens. Prior to the T.O. signing, Edwards would have held this same position in the ranks. He is a game manager who is most comfortable throwing the ball around 25 times a game. If he throws it more than that, he will most likely start throwing it to the other team. Edwards now has limitless talent to throw to with WR Lee Evans and the previously mentioned Terrell Owens, but don’t expect the world from him. He will produce good stats, but not great ones.

24. Denver Broncos – Kyle Orton
The good news is that Kyle Orton isn’t terrible. The bad news is that Kyle Orton isn’t good. Orton is a serviceable quarterback who can perform a Kerry Collins-esque game manager role in Denver, but the Broncos will soon learn that he is no Jay Cutler. Fortunately for Denver, Brandon Marshall makes playing quarterback easy, and if rookie RB Knowshon Moreno can get his feet under him quickly Orton won’t have to worry about passing very much at all. Chris Simms sits behind Orton on the depth chart. Don’t be too surprised if Simms ends up taking snaps by mid-2009.

23. Tennessee Titans – Kerry Collins / Vince Young
I know, listing Vince Young here might be folly. Most likely, Collins will start nearly every game of the 2009 season and Young will continue going on midnight strolls to alarm family and friends. I listed him here, however, because it’s not often that a team spends a top five pick on a quarterback and abandons him this quickly. If Young does not get at least one start this year, I will be genuinely surprised. Collins is a reliable starter with excellent fundamentals and an outstanding game manager mentality. Unfortunately, his game does not expand much beyond this due to Tennessee’s talented defense and running game. He remains, however, a better option at quarterback than a number of other starters, and definitely a safer choice than Vince Young.

22. Cleveland Browns – Brady Quinn / Derek Anderson
Brady Quinn is currently listed as the Cleveland Browns starting quarterback. It doesn’t help that new head coach Eric Mangini has publicly expressed his dislike for Quinn, or that Quinn fell face first when given the reins in 2008. Current back-up Derek Anderson also struggled in 2008, but he remains the only quarterback on the roster who has a productive season under his belt, throwing for over 3,700 yards and 29 touchdowns in 2007. Quinn will most likely start and endure the growing pains of being an NFL quarterback, but as a tandem the Cleveland Browns have an awful lot of talent/potential on the roster at quarterback.

21. St. Louis Rams – Marc Bulger
Yeah, this guy has made the Pro Bowl before. Twice. Bulger was stellar from 2004-06, but his last two seasons have taken a turn for the worse. In 2007 and 2008, Bulger combined for 22 touchdowns and an astonishing 28 interceptions. Hard to swallow from a quarterback coming off of three straight seasons with a 90+ Quarterback Rating. In 2009, Marc Bulger’s success will hinge on the success of first round draft pick OT Jason Smith and the health of marquee RB Steven Jackson. If Smith produces, Jackson can run. If Jackson can run, defenses will be forced to respect the run and open up some passing lanes for Bulger. Will this happen? Probably not, but God, Bulger hopes so.


20. Jacksonville Jaguars – David Garrard
What happened to David Garrard? Jacksonville bought into David Garrard when they sent former starting quarterback (and younger) Byron Leftwich out the door in 2006. Garrard did not disappoint in 2007, producing a triple digit Quarterback Rating (102.2) while throwing for 18 touchdowns and only 3 interceptions. 2008 was a different story, however, as Garrard was bitten by the turnover bug (13 interceptions, 3 fumbles lost) and saw his QB Rating drop over 20 points. 2009 is a wild card year for Garrard, as his 2007 or 2008 version could show up to play any given weekend.

19. Carolina Panthers – Jake Delhomme
For how painfully Jake Delhomme’s 2008 season ended, his regular season numbers weren’t that bad. Given, the numbers aren’t sending Delhomme to Hawaii any time soon, but an 84.7 Quarterback Rating, 3,288 Passing Yards, and 15 Passing Touchdowns are serviceable contributions. Consider that Delhomme’s career passer rating is 85.1, and that even in his most productive years (2003-05) he averaged around 3,500 passing yards with a QB Rating in the mid-80s, and you get a good gauge of what to expect in 2009. Delhomme was never built to impress, but he can provide serviceable production and strong leadership.

18. Houston Texans – Matt Schaub
When Texans fans weren’t enjoying the Sage Rosenfels high-flying show against the Colts, they were entertained by emerging quarterback Matt Schaub. Schaub’s numbers in 2008 didn’t blow anyone away, but that’s because he only played in 11 games. If Schaub’s numbers were projected for 16 games, he would have finished with just over 4,400 yards and 22 touchdowns. Instead, he played in only 11 games and still cleared 3,000 yards through the air. Don’t forget that Schaub finished with a 92.7 Quarterback Rating in 2008, good for seventh best in the NFL and better than Romo, Cassel, McNabb, and more. Sure, I could throw a touchdown to Andre Johnson (just lob it up there), but in 2009 Schaub could throw a lot of them.

17. Washington Redskins – Jason Campbell
The Washington Native Americans (see, I’m not racist) are in a precarious situation. They have a highly efficient former first round draft pick who boasts a career Quarterback Rating better than Eli Manning starting at quarterback… And Daniel Snyder isn’t satisfied. Jason Campbell has plenty of room to improve as a quarterback, but he seems to have settled into a game manager role with the Redskins. In time, he could develop into a star quarterback, but as it stands he seems content with minimal passing attempts and a high level of efficiency.

16. Atlanta Falcons – Matt Ryan
Matt Ryan had a dream season in 2008, leading a Falcons team who was destined to finish last into the playoffs in his rookie year. Despite this success, Ryan’s statistical output was nothing spectacular. En route to becoming America’s Sweetheart, Ryan failed to land in the top ten in Quarterback Rating, Passing Yards, or Passing Touchdowns. Obviously his rookie season was productive, but Ryan still has much more room to grow as a quarterback before being considered one of the league’s best.

15. Miami Dolphins – Chad Pennington
Chad Pennington had an outstanding 2008 season, leading a once left for dead Dolphins team to the NFL Playoffs. Pennington finished first in the league in pass completion percentage (67.4%), and more importantly he rarely turned the ball over. Pennington was one of three quarterbacks in 2008 to play all 16 games and finish with a single digit interception total, throwing only 7 all season. Pennington is never going to blow the opposing team away, but he is efficient and consistent, which is enough to lead the Dolphins to victory.

14. Kansas City Chiefs – Matt Cassel
 Matt Cassel was certainly the surprise story of the 2008 regular season. His emergence as an impact quarterback in New England led to a high-profile acquisition by the Kansas City Chiefs. While Cassel was never projected as an NFL starter, his 2008 season was productive to say the least. Most impressive was Cassel’s final five games of the year, in which he threw 14 touchdowns, only 4 interceptions, while registering a triple-digit Quarterback Rating four times. It is yet to be seen if Cassel can produce outside of the New England Patriots system. Since the 2009 season will show whether he can thrive in another system, a productive year could shoot him significantly up the quarterback ranks, while a disappointing year could drop him just as much.

13. New York Giants – Eli Manning
Many fans who think of Eli Manning as a top-tier NFL quarterback get lost in Eli Manning lore rather than Eli Manning statistics. While his playoff performance against the undefeated Patriots was heroic, his career performance has been barely over par. Consider this: Manning has never broken 4,000 yards, never thrown for more than 24 touchdowns, and never had a single-season Quarterback Rating above 90. In fact, before last season, Manning had never had a single-season Quarterback Rating above 80! His career QB Rating of 76.1 is more of an indicator of his skill set. While he may throw for a decent number of touchdowns (23 TD/yr over last four seasons) he will also throw a lot of interceptions (16.25 INT/yr over last four seasons).

12. Seattle Seahawks – Matt Hasselbeck
Hailing from the far-away Pacific Northwest, many experts have been quick to write off Hasselbeck after an injury-plagued 2008 season. Those same experts forget that in his last two full seasons Hasselbeck earned a Quarterback Rating over 90 while averaging over 3,700 passing yards, 26 passing touchdowns, and only 10.5 interceptions. At only 33 years of age (critics will have you believing that he is 40), Hasselbeck is reportedly healthy and joined in 2009 by emerging TE John Carlson and newly acquired WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh. A return to Pro Bowl form is not as far fetched as most would believe.

11. Green Bay Packers – Aaron Rodgers
No, he doesn’t wear No.4, but Aaron Rodgers quietly enjoyed a stellar 2008 season. While most Green Bay fans criticized Rodgers for the Packers’ 6-10 record, many overlook Rodgers’ significant statistical production. Rodgers passed for over 4,000 yards and 28 touchdowns, good for fourth best in the NFL. Even if Packers fans were upset about Rodgers first season, they should remember this much: Rodgers finished ranked better than Brett Favre in Quarterback Rating, Passing Yards, Passing Touchdowns, and Interceptions Thrown. Rodgers has all the tools to be a top-five quarterback in the future.

10. Pittsburgh Steelers – Ben Roethlisberger
I’m probably going to get barbecued for putting Big Ben this low, but consider that this isn’t a list of “best game managers.” Roethlisberger throws a fantastic short ball, and is excellent at eluding pressure in the pocket. However, in terms of passing efficiency, many quarterbacks have produced better numbers in recent years. Had it not been for a memorable postseason, Big Ben’s 2008 season was forgettable. He threw for just over 200 yards per game, with only 17 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. Most forgettable, however, was his 80.1 Quarterback Rating, which was good for 24th in the NFL.  Roethlisberger has the physical tools to succeed, but with Pittsburgh’s run-first mentality and his inexperience at taking over football games, it’s difficult to place him higher on this list. He is the best game manager in the NFL, but he is a game manager first and a quarterback second.

9. Cincinnati Bengals – Carson Palmer
Prior to an injury-plagued 2008 season, Carson Palmer was one of the most consistent quarterbacks in the NFL. From 2005-07, Palmer played in all 48 games, producing no less than 3,816 yards and no less than 26 passing touchdowns in that three year stretch. As Palmer returns from injury in 2009, it is fair to assume that he can return to form.

8. Chicago Bears – Jay Cutler
Josh McDaniels’ nemesis turned into one of the few 25-year-old Pro Bowl quarterbacks to ever land on the trading block. The Chicago Bears won the Jay Cutler Sweepstakes, and became the instant favorite in an ever-so-mediocre NFC North. Cutler had a phenomenal 2008 campaign, finishing with over 4,500 passing yards and 25 touchdowns. Cutler did experience some problems, however, throwing for a near league-high 18 interceptions while missing the postseason due to one of the most notable late-season collapses in recent memory. With the Chicago Bears defense in tow, Cutler could have a very successful 2009 season.

7. Dallas Cowboys – Tony Romo
If the NFL regular season ended in November, Tony Romo would be a god. As it stands, he is forced to annually punt, pass, and kick the Dallas Cowboys offense into the ground to close out the season. Despite a growing reputation as a choke artist, no one can dismiss Romo’s regular season success. Statistically, Romo is one of the most productive NFL quarterbacks in recent years, but his inability to perform in big games has dropped him a few pegs on this list. Unfortunately for Romo, Jessica Simpson’s hotness could not factor into this equation either…

6. Philadelphia Eagles – Donovan McNabb
Despite Philadelphia Eagles fans’ complete dissatisfaction with the status quo, Donovan McNabb remains one of the most talented quarterbacks in the NFL. After the Kevin-Kolb-might-be-good-but-wow-he-blew-in-the-one-game-he-played debacle, McNabb put together a string of five stellar performances. In the final five games of 2008, McNabb led the Eagles to a 4-1 record, throwing for nine touchdowns, one interception, and a 98.7 Quarterback Rating, culminating a 44-6 romp over the Dallas Cowboys in a win-or-go-home season finale. McNabb is one of the most efficient and accurate passers in NFL history, and clearly ranks in the upper tier of NFL quarterbacks.

5. San Diego Chargers – Philip Rivers
If personal bias had anything to do with this list, Philip Rivers would be dead last. As much as I hate his personality, he seems to get better every year. While he was initially fostered by all-world back LaDainian Tomlinson, Rivers was forced to produce his own offense in 2008, a task which he executed quite efficiently. In 2008, threw for over 4,000 yards while leading the NFL in Quarterback Rating (105.5) and touchdowns (34). Rivers had led the Chargers to three consecutive postseasons and may not have reached his full potential yet.

4. Arizona Cardinals – Kurt Warner
In 2008, the ageless wonder had an outstanding season. He finished top three in Passing Attempts (2nd), Passing Completions (3rd), Completion Percentage (2nd), Passing Yards (2nd), Passing Touchdowns (3rd), and Quarterback Rating (3rd). Warner has a roller-coaster resume, featuring time spent as a grocery clerk, Arena League all-star, Super Bowl Champion, one-touch fumble machine, Eli Manning Backup, and now resides as an Arizona Icon. He is the essence of a pure passer, and seems to thrive in only one kind of offense: the kind that says “We’re throwing! Try and stop us!”

3. New Orleans Saints – Drew Brees
Drew Brees flirted with history in 2008, falling just short of Dan Marino’s record for passing yards in a single season. His season numbers were phenomenal nonetheless, as he threw for over 5,000 yards and a league-leading 34 touchdowns. Brees’ career numbers are just as impressive. He sports a 63.9 career completion percentage and 1.69:1 career touchdown to interception ratio.

2. New England Patriots – Tom Brady
If I were ranking quarterbacks based solely on prior accomplishments, Brady would occupy the top spot on the list. If I were ranking quarterbacks based solely on what I expect from them in the 2009 season, Brady would be somewhere in the middle of the pack (ask Daunte Culpepper and Donovan McNabb how their first season back from the same injury went). This list, however, is gauging the overall best quarterbacks in the NFL right now. Tom Brady is a proven winner who throws the most accurate short ball in the entire NFL. His skill set, coupled with his mastery of the New England playbook, easily makes him one of the top two quarterbacks in the NFL.

1. Indianapolis Colts – Peyton Manning
The top spot on this list came down to the upper echelon of current NFL quarterbacks; Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. While Brady’s accomplishments cannot be understated, Peyton Manning has done more-with-less than any quarterback in recent history (for an excellent summary see this article).

That’s it! I hope you enjoyed the read.

Please comment on this article as you see fit!

sk.

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Several key free agent acquisitions have changed the landscape of this draft. From here on out when changes are made the reasons will be listed below along with the previous pick.

—Updated April 23

It’s that time of the year again… less than a week from the 2009 NFL Draft and Mock Drafts around the world are in full swing. The RTS Writers got together and hammered out how we believe the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft will shake out. Read and respond with what you think we got right, wrong, and anything else that’s on your mind!

———————————————————————————————–


detroit51. Matthew Stafford – QB (Georgia)

It seems that RTS has already gone one-for-one in this year’s draft. Stafford has been our pick here since day one and by Thursday (April 23) the Lions and Stafford might have a deal worked out. Detroit is in the rebuilding phase, and it has become clear that Daunte Culpepper is not the answer. Matt Stafford is the best quarterback available in the draft, and while he might not have the mindset to be a winner right now, he has the physical tools to become an excellent NFL quarterback. Detroit could address their woeful offensive line with this pick, but the offensive line pool in this draft is deep and no lineman stands out from the rest as an elite player. Most likely, Detroit will take Stafford here and wait until pick 20 to take an o-lineman. –SK-

stl2. Jason Smith – OT (Baylor)

Orlando Pace is aging, the St. Louis Rams are floundering, and it is well known that the strongest foundation for an NFL franchise is a good offensive line. As previously mentioned, there is one single elite offensive lineman in this draft, instead there is a group of linemen who have worked their way into the top tier. There are rumors that the Rams are considering LB Aaron Curry here, as he is quickly proving to be the most talented player in this draft, but for now it’s a safe bet that St. Louis will address their offensive line with this pick. –SK-

kc3. Aaron Curry – MLB (Wake Forest)

Aaron Curry is the best prospect in the entire draft.  If it weren’t for the needs of the teams ahead of Kansas City, Curry probably would be the number one overall pick (and deservedly so).  Projected as a first round pick before the combine, Curry was the focal point of the combine for anyone who didn’t already know how outstanding he was.  The only other viable option here was Mark Sanchez, but after filling their QB vacancy via free agency with backup all-star Matt Cassel, this is an obvious selection. –AM-

sea4. Eugene Monroe – OT (Virginia)
–Updated March 3 – Previous Pick: DT B.J. Raji–

As mentioned before, there are a number of ways that Seattle can go with this pick. Fortunately for experts and bloggers alike, the Seahawks recent free agent acquisitions have cleared up their draft strategy. Signing WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh eliminates any chance of spending first-round money on WR Michael Crabtree. Additionally, adding defensive tackles Colin Cole (for a whopping 5 years/$21 Million) and Cory Redding shows that the Seahawks aren’t going to commit their first-round pick to Boston College standout DT B.J. Raji. These acquisitions allow the Seahawks to address their struggling offensive line. There has been recent speculation that Seattle is interested in USC QB Mark Sanchez, but Seattle’s pursuit of 31 year-old WR T.J. Hooshamama indicated that the Seahawks are trying to win now. While Sanchez makes sense as the quarterback of the future, it seems more likely that the Seahawks will use this pick to find a player who can make an impact in 2009. For now the Seahawks need to take a waiver on Eugene Monroe, one of the elite o-linemen in this draft. The only way this changes is if Aaron Curry somehow falls past Kansas City (which should not happen). If Curry is available, Seattle will bite. Aside from him, however, Eugene Monroe the clear choice. -SK-

cle5. Bryan Orapko – DE/LB (Texas)

Cleveland has had an interesting offseason. New coach Eric Mangini has already stated his disinterest in naming Brady Quinn the quarterback of the future, the front office dealt away one of few elite tight ends in the game in Kellen Winslow, and for some reason Phil Savage is still allowed on premises. Despite a now-official quarterback controversy, Cleveland has only one way to go with this pick: DEFENSE. Cleveland’s pass rush was atrocious last year (17 total sacks all year), and while their secondary is a concern, the Browns need to focus on getting to the quarterback. Rumor has it that star WR Braylon Edwards is on his way out of town (most likely to New York), but until he is gone the Browns can’t seriously entertain thoughts of Michael Crabtree. Orapko is a freak athlete (dubbed by ESPN’s Michael Smith as the most talented player in this draft), and the Bengals will take Orapko as a fit for their team and an incredibly high-value selection. –SK-

cin6. Andre Smith – OT (Alabama)
Updated April 22 – Previous Pick: DT B.J. Raji–

Just when it seemed like Andre Smith would never stop falling, he jumped up a few picks on our draft board. Smith’s appearance at No.6 isn’t so much attributed to his own talent as it is the Bengals team needs combined with the pool of available players. I have seen two near-consensus selections by the Bengals with this pick: OT Eugene Monroe or DT B.J. Raji. Unfortunately, neither one of those picks fits in our mock. Eugene Monroe would be an excellent fit in Cincinnati, but unfortunately he will be off the board at pick No.4 (don’t even get me started on the Sanchez-to-Seattle rubbish). As for Raji, the Bungles signed DT Tank Johnson this offseason, signaling that they will head elsewhere in this draft. Everyone knows the Bengals need help on the offensive line. Most other mocks conveniently provide this with Eugene Monroe, but our mock will force the Bengals to make the hard decision: passing up on more talented players for what the team really needs. The Bengals need a star-caliber OT, and while Smith may have off-field issues, his on-field talent remains, making him the Bengals choice here. -SK-

oak7. Michael Crabtree – WR (Texas Tech)

When Al Davis is in the vicinity, here is the draft strategy: determine the most logical pick, throw it out the window, then take the player on the board with most talent. Ironically, this strategy might work in 2009. If Crabtree slips to pick 7, Oakland will land a franchise-caliber wide receiver (not named Johnnie Lee Higgins or Chaz Schilens) to join former college stars QB Jamarcus Russell and RB Darren McFadden. If Crabtree is off the board, look for Oakland to address their terrible offensive line (this is only possible if someone drugs Al Davis and makes the pick without his input). Oakland is  just now figuring out that Robert Gallery is not the answer on their offensive line, and if a premiere tackle is available it would be the smart pick… Then again, who knows, if Crabtree is gone they might just take a player like Jeremy Maclin, who has raw talent and a tremendous upside. Not to mention that Jeremy Maclin has Al Davis’ proverbial drug-addiction: speed. With Al Davis, you just never know, but one thing seems to be clear: if Crabtree is available, he’s probably heading to Oakland. –SK-

jax8. B.J. Raji – DT (Boston College)
Updated April 22 – Previous Pick: LB Rey Maualuga–

Several teams have a difficult time finding a deficiency worthy of a top 10 pick… Not in Jacksonville! In Jacksonville, they suck at nearly everything. Try to find a position that you couldn’t justify drafting, I dare you. QB: Garrard looked good as a replacement, but does he have what it takes to be a star? RB: Maurice Jones-Drew is a stud, but in the NFL’s two running back era, a young back to share the workload is ideal. WR: Matt Jones + Cocaine = a thinning wide receiver corps. OT: One of the worst in the NFL. Despite these offensive inefficiencies, I think Jacksonville addresses defense with this pick. If B.J. Raji falls to Jacksonville at pick No.8 then the Jags might make the steal of the draft. Our initial projection for Raji was pick No.4 to the Seahawks, but the ‘Hawks made a few moves which indicated they had no interest in taking a DT at No.4. Since no other teams between here and there have significant interest in a DT, Raji could fall to the Jags. Believe me, if he is here the Jags will be waiting with open arms. They have in the proverbial wilderness ever since Marcus Stroud left town, and B.J. Raji could give them a dominant DT that they so desperately desire. -SK-

gb9. Tyson Jackson – DE (LSU)
Updated April 22 – Previous Pick: DE/LB Everette Brown–

Green Bay is in the midst of a defensive facelift, changing from defensive schemes from a 4-3 to a 3-4. This change moved Pro Bowl defensive end Aaron Kampman to one outside linebacker spot, but this formation demands even more versatile players. The Packers would love for DT B.J. Raji to land here, since a successful 3-4 scheme requires a mammoth NT (not named Cody Pickett), but Raji will be gone and the Packers will be left to load up the outside of its new formation. Tyson Jackson is a 3-4 style defensive end, with enough speed to rush around the edges and enough size to dig into the trenches. Green Bay would love to have former Texas standout Bryan Orapko, whose size/speed combination is unparalleled in this draft, but they will happily settle for Jackson, who matches their scheme better than any defensive end available. -SK-

sf10. Mark Sanchez – QB (USC)

San Francisco needs help at quarterback, and while Shaun Hill was serviceable last season, he is not the long-term answer. With KC acquiring Matt Cassel, Sanchez will most likely be on the board here. There is much recent speculation that the Seahawks are interested at pick No.4, and though I see the logic in finding a long-term backup, Sanchez would be a wasted pick for a Seahawks team that is trying to win right now. The only other threat to snipe Sanchez before pick No.10 is a possible trade (the Jets have been rumored to be interested in trading up) or the outside chance that Jacksonville takes Sanchez at No.8. Every day it seems more probable that San Francisco will look to trade this pick. Their other interests are wide receiver and defensive line, both of which have been picked clean of top-tier talent, so trading down would be a value play, especially since many teams are interested in trading up for Sanchez. Placing Sanchez here in our mock draft does not necessarily indicate that we believe San Francisco will select him, but that he will be selected here even if the pick is traded. It seems likely that San Francisco will either trade the pick or draft Mark Sanchez themselves. There is a new head coach in San Francisco, which indicates a new era of play. Every new era needs a leader, and the Niners might try and find that leader in Mark Sanchez. –SK-

buf11. Michael Oher – OT (Ole Miss)
Updated April 22 – Previous Pick: TE Brandon Pettigrew–

This pick has changed for two primary reasons. First, we initially had Pettigrew slotted here because it was possible that if the Bills didn’t take a top-tier tight end at No.11, one might not fall to their second-round selection. This worry was alleviated however, as Bufalo recently acquired overall pick No.28 from the Philadelphia Eagles. Because of this addition, the Bills can plan on using their next pick to address their needs at tight end instead of reaching for Oklahoma State star Brandon Pettigrew at No.11. The second reason the pick changed is that in order to acquire the previously mentioned No.28 pick the Bills traded away disgruntled (but Pro Bowl) offensive tackle Jason Peters. It is possible to wait and address this deficiency with pick No.28, but with the obvious importance of offensive tackles, Buffalo won’t hesitate to grab the last of the top-tier tackles in this draft. A pass rusher is an option here, as Aaron Maybin is still available, but Buffalo should address their most obvious hole by taking top-tier tackle Michael Oher. –SK-

den12. Aaron Maybin – DE (Penn State)
Updated March 30 – Previous Pick: LB Rey Maualuga–

Gone are the days of Mike Shanahan waving a magic wand and producing 1000 yard rushers. Instead, Josh McDaniels has waved a magic wand and nearly forced a 25 year old Pro Bowl quarterback out of town. While McDaniels seems content to juggle his offensive talent, the Denver Broncos scouting crew should be focusing on defense. Some mocks have the Broncos taking a running back in the first round, but Denver acquired J.J. Arrington, Correll Buckhalter, and Lamont Jordan this offseason, which has them well on pace to produce the stereotypical Denver Broncos running back by committee (also known as survival of the fittest; see Peyton Hillis in 2008). This pick has to go to defense. I’ve seen projections of D-linemen, linebackers, and secondary help through a variety of positions, but some of these deficiencies have been addressed already. Denver signed S Brian Dawkins for secondary help and MLB Andra Davis to strengthen its linebacking corps, but have yet to acquire any significant talent on the defensive line (No, Ronald Fields does not count). Enter Aaron Maybin. Maybin had a good combine, but an incredible Pro Day at Penn State. He has put on over 20lbs of muscle and lowered his 40 time to 4.59. His upside is endless, and his age doesn’t hurt either (he is still only 20 years old). Maybin is the best available help on the defensive line, and if his stock keeps rising he could be a steal at pick No.12.  –SK-

was13. Robert Ayers – DE (Tennessee)
Updated April 22 – Previous Pick: OT Michael Oher–

Money can’t buy Daniel Snyder love, but he is checking to see whether or not it can buy him championships. The NFL’s Steinbrenner has opened up his checkbook this offseason to acquire CB Deangelo Hall (AKA Eddie Royal’s B****) and DT Albert Haynesworth, the most sought after free agent this offseason. Despite Haynesworth’s addition to the defensive line, the Redskins are still in desperate need of a pass rush. Washington’s defensive end stock is both depleted and aging, leaving a number of either unproven or injury-prone players to fill in its ranks. Robert Ayers has been flying up draft boards for the past few months, and rumor has it that the Washington coaching staff has become quite enamored with the former Volunteer. Ayers would add an instant spark to the Redskins pass rush, and complement DE Andre Carter and DT Albert Haynesworth as key components to the Redskins pass rush. Offensive line was a possibility here, but anyone worth taking is off the board. The entire upper echelon of offensive tackles is gone, and to reach for one of the lesser tackles would be a waste of this pick. Look for Washington to address their pass-rush blues by picking Robert Ayers here. -SK-

no14. Malcolm Jenkins – CB/S (Ohio State)
Updated April 22 – Previous Pick: CB Vontae Davis–

Two very sexy picks have recently come about for New Orleans. The first is a running back (Moreno/Wells seem to be a push on most draft boards) because of the loss of Deuce McAllister and the need for a bruising running back. Proponents of this pick are severely underappreciating Saints RB Pierre Thomas, who can bruise with the best of them. The second is Malcolm Jenkins. The Saints re-signed all-world LB Jonathan Vilma, so their front seven should be fine. That leaves a god-awful pass defense to worry about. Sure there were a few games where Jason David intercepted the ball, but that’s because the other team kept throwing his way (because usually it worked). Jenkins can fix this problem, as several scouts believe he has the tools to be a shutdown corner in the NFL. Some people are wondering how Jenkins fell out of the top 10. I’ll tell you how: by running a 40 yard dash that made Andre Smith say “that dude is slow.” Despite this lack of speed, Jenkins has a build and athleticism to be a productive cornerback. Even if the worse-case scenario plays itself out and Jenkins is forced to switch to free safety, this fits in New Orleans because they have a need for a long-term fix at free safety. The Saints have to address their pass defense with this pick, and Jenkins allows them to select a high-caliber prospect with (unintentional) versatility. –SK-

hou15. Vontae Davis – CB (Illinois)
Updated April 22 – Previous Pick:  DE Tyson Jackson–

It is universally accepted that the Texans need to address their defense in this year’s draft. Head coach Gary Kubiak collected an arsenal of draft picks this year, but the most important is obviously their first round pick. While outside linebacker is a sexy choice here, Houston could use this pick to strengthen their secondary. Vontae Davis has star-potential, and he could plug directly into a talent-starved Houston secondary. Texans CB Dunta Robinson is a stud, but the guy playing across from him might not be identified if the head coach had to pick him out of a lineup. Davis would give the Texans two legitimate cornerbacks, a luxury which few NFL teams possess. While defensive end and outside linebacker are possibilities here, the Texans will round out their secondary by adding Vernon Davis’ kid brother. -SK-

sd16. Brian Cushing – OLB (USC)

San Diego runs one of the most vicious 3-4 defensive packages in the NFL. What allows this formation to dominate opposing offenses is a combination of pass rushing defensive ends and incredibly versatile linebackers. With Shawne Merriman and Shaun Phillips as outside linebackers, San Diego’s pass rush is lethal. However, San Diego is becoming more concerned with defensive depth (see what happened when Merriman went down for the count in 2008) and the possibility of Merriman leaving via free agency in 2010. San Diego needs a defensive playmaker, and more specifically they need a versatile linebacker to plug into a 3-4 system. Cushing offers a USC-pedigree, a serviceable backup to the Merriman/Phillips combo, and an insurance package in case Merriman heads elsewhere next offseason. Many experts have predicted a backup running back drafted here (in case LDT goes down the Shaun Alexander road to success), but the simple fact is that San Diego already has too much money tied up at the running back position. They have the inflated contract of LaDainian Tomlinson, as well as the franchise-tag contract of Darren Sproles. To spend first-round pick money on a running back would be financial suicide. This pick has to be a linebacker, and Cushing is the best fit for San Diego at this pick. –SK-

nyj17. Everette Brown – DE/LB (Florida State)
Updated April 22 – Previous Pick:  WR Jeremy Maclin–

Yes, I understand that the entire world has Jeremy Maclin here. I also understand that the Jets desperately need receiver depth, and that Maclin is an excellent value here. However, I changed this pick for two reasons. First, you have to look at who is going to be making the picks on draft day. Rex Ryan showed up in New York, dragged half of the Baltimore defense with him, and has imposed the belief that he will lead a hard-nose defense this year. What better way to do that than to draft a top-tier pass rusher with your first round pick? Still don’t believe me? Then consider the second reason: this year’s draft class is incredibly deep at wide receiver. Even if the Jets don’t pull the trigger on the ready-to-run Maclin, they will have several viable options with their second round pick. The later round will be full of receivers with size (USC’s Patrick Turner stands at 6’5″) and speed (Mike Wallace and Johnny Knox each ran the 40 in 4.30 or lower), and don’t forget that this year’s Cheech and Chong, Brandon Tate and Percy Harvin, are slipping down draft boards as well. Mangini-us is now Man-gone-ius, which leaves Rex Ryan to call the shots. Ryan will restrain from taking a wide receiver now and instead focus on pass rushing, which is crucial in Ryan’s aggressive defensive schemes. Brown will provide the Jets explosive speed off the edges and desperately needed youth at defensive end. -SK-

den18. Rey Maualuga – LB (USC)
Updated April 22 – Previous Pick: Chicago Selected WR Darrius Heyward-Bey–

Sure, Josh McDaniels practically burned down Jay Cutler’s home, but at least he brought back a few draft picks in return. Depending on how this year’s draft plays out and how Kyle Orton adapts to Denver’s offense, McDaniels could come out looking like a genius. The Broncos were forced to pass on Rey-Rey with pick No.12, as linebacking help was not as important to the Broncos as improving their pass rush. However, no one between here and there bit on this year’s best Samoan, so Denver will end up with Maualuga anyways. Denver’s linebacking corps already features star players in D.J. Williams and Andra Davis, but adding Maualuga to the mix will allow a lot more flexibility in formations. Williams is a young star, but Davis is nothing more than a stop-gap measure. Davis’ experience could be used to mentor Maualuga, eventually leading to Maualuga’s leadership of the Broncos defensive unit. Defensive tackle is a necessity in Denver, as they lack a true 3-4 nose tackle, but there is no d-tackle talent on the board worth taking here, which makes Maualuga the most logical choice. –SK-

tb19. Michael Johnson – DE (Georgia Tech)
Updated April 22 – Previous Pick: QB Josh Freeman–

Tampa Bay signing Derrick Ward officially killed any chance of Tampa drafting a running back with this pick. For now it seems like the Buccos have revamped their offense, as they signed RB Derrick Ward, re-signed WR Michael Clayton, attempted to trade for Pro Bowl QB Jay Cutler, and recently signed former star QB Byron Leftwich. It is unclear how many of these moves will heavily benefit the team, but it seems that Tampa now has to address the defensive side of the ball via the draft. In truth, the Bucs need to add depth across their entire defense. Tampa is loaded down with mediocrity at defensive tackle, piling 300-pounders Cullen Jenkins, Ryan Sims, and Chris Hovan all into a race for the starting nod. In the secondary, CB Aqib Talib is the one young bright spot in existence. While these are legitimate needs, they are nothing compared to the Bucs need at defensive end. DE Gaines Adams has had two stellar seasons, but there is no suitable player to start opposite him on the line, making DE Michael Johnson a very attractive choice at No.19. Johnson is a physical freak and was at one time considered a top five pick in this year’s draft. Now Tampa will see if they can take his raw physical skills and turn him into an All-Pro. -SK-

detroit420. Eben Britton – OT (Arizona)
Updated April 22 – Previous Pick: OT Andre Smith–

If the Detroit Lions don’t select an offensive tackle with the number 1 pick, they will address that need at pick 20. It’s not a sexy pick, but no matter how much fans hate it, offensive tackles are the building blocks for great teams. Why do you need a strong LT? Because most right-handed quarterbacks need their blind side protected. Put in a weak LT and you will get David Carr-esque sack numbers… no good for a young team. Eben Britton has all the physical tools to be an NFL star, and could prove good enough to bump current LT Jeff Backus to LG. Britton isn’t part of the elite level of offensive tackles, but he has the physical skills necessary to compete in the NFL in his first season. If the Lions can land the top QB in Matt Stafford and a second-tier tackle in Eben Britton their first round would be a tremendous success. That Roy Williams trade is looking better and better each day… -SK-

phi21. Knowshon Moreno – RB (Georgia)
Updated March 30 – Previous Pick: LB James Laurinaitis–

Philadelphia fans have disagreed with every single mock draft I’ve seen. Why? Because they are Philadelphia fans. What these fans don’t understand is that disagreements don’t matter, because the Philadelphia front office is probably going to ignore them anyways. In this instance, however, I think the Eagles might draft someone the fans want in Knowshon Moreno. Brian Westbrook is one of the most talented running backs in the NFL, but he is over the hill in running back years (30 years old) and his oft-injured knee is a frequent cause for concern. Factor in the departure last year’s backup Correll Buckhalter, and running back seems like a must-have for the Eagles. Moreno has a power-back build, game-breaking potential, and an obsession with jumping over defenders any time he touches the ball. Westbrook is far from done, but his health concerns and Correll Buckhalter’s exit make Knowshon Moreno the clear choice for Philadelphia. -SK-

min22. Jeremy Maclin – WR (Missouri)
Updated April 22 – Previous Pick: OT Eben Britton–

Yes, I am aware that the Vikings are not looking for a speed receiver. Why? Because they already have one in Bernard “the only words I understand are ‘go deep!'” Berrian. However, Maclin makes sense here for a number of reasons. First and foremost, he is a ridiculously high value pick at No.22. Some mocks have Maclin going as high as No.7 to the fighting Al Davis’, but if he slips past the Raiders, there may not be another suitor until Minnesota hits the clock at pick 22. Second, Maclin brings more to the team than just speed. Minnesota is in dire need of an impact kick returner and punt returner. On their official depth chart, RB Chester Taylor is listed at kick returner and CB Charles Gordon at punt returner. This is not to insult those gentlemen, but Jeremy Maclin’s skill set includes a lethal combination of kick and punt returning (so much so that he was “Devin Hestered” a number of times last season). If a stellar offensive tackle was available here, the Vikes would bite. But as is, there is no value-pick available from the offensive line, making wide receiver a virtual lock to be taken. A taller possession receiver makes sense here (e.g. Hakeem Nicks, Kenny Britt, etc.), but if Maclin is on the board the Vikes will have to take him. -SK-

ne23. Clay Matthews – OLB (USC)
Updated April 22 – Previous Pick: CB/S Malcolm Jenkins–

No, the Patriots will never stop adding young talent to their roster. No, the Patriots will also never stop adding nearly washed up old players to their roster either. Bill Belichick and Patriots will have another chance to flex their personnel skills with pick No.23. There are a number of ways the Pats could go here, but the most obvious hole in the Patriots lineup is at outside linebacker, where longtime Patriot Mike Vrabel was shipped to Kansas City. There are several options here, including Clint Sintim, Larry English, and Clay Matthews, but in the end the Pats will select the player who demonstrates the most fundamental skills. Clay Matthews holds a USC pedigree, an unmatched work ethic, and enough raw talent to be able to fit a number of defensive schemes. Belichick will use Matthews’ versatility to bounce around on the defensive side of the ball, and just like Belichick always does, he will squeeze every ounce of talent out of whomever he drafts. -SK-

atl24. Larry English – DE/LB (Northern Illinois)
Updated April 22 – Previous Pick: S William Moore–

Atlanta needs help at two key defensive positions this offseason: linebacker and strong safety. Linebackers Keith Brooking and Michael Boley left via free agency, and Atlanta has failed to replace these losses, adding only Mike Peterson to their diminished linebacking corps. The Falcons will take English here for a number of reasons. Initially, his raw talent draws attention, but his versatility will enable the Falcons to move him around on the defensive side of the ball. He shouldn’t move much, however, as there is a glaring hole at outside linebacker. English will join Mike Peterson in the linebacking corps, a situation which may help him develop faster than normal. Atlanta could use this pick to address the loss of SS Lawyer Milloy. The Falcons were not shy about interviewing secondary players at the combine, and seemingly fell in love with Western Michigan S Louis Delmas. There is a deep pool at safety, however, and the Falcons should use this pick to take the best available hybrid player. Safety can wait, a complete hole at outside linebacker cannot. -SK-

mia25. Hakeem Nicks – WR (North Carolina)

Miami needs help at offensive line, but not the kind of help that a first round pick brings. Translation: they don’t need a premiere tackle; their needs are at interior line positions. They will probably wait until the second or third rounds and snag an interior lineman such as California C Alex Mack or Oklahoma OG Duke Robinson. With offensive line out of the question, Miami will address another glaring inefficiency in their lineup by selecting a WR. Ted Ginn Jr. has the makings of an NFL star, while lesser known receivers Greg Camarillo and Devone Bess performed well last season. However, if Miami expects to improve their passing game they need to add a star receiver to line up opposite Ginn. Camarillo and Bess are excellent third and fourth options, but Nicks will give Chad Pennington another young target with great potential to throw to. The Dolphins will grab some o-linemen later in the draft, but at pick 25 look for Miami to grab a star receiver in Hakeem Nicks. –SK-

bal26. Darrius Heyward-Bey – WR (Maryland)
Updated April 22 – Previous Pick: CB Darius Butler–

The Baltimore Ravens addressed one of their many defensive holes by signing free agent cornerback Domonique Foxworth from the Atlanta Falcons. This addition will allow the Ravens to use the No.26 pick for the offensive side of the ball. Last year, the Ravens found what they expect to be a franchise quarterback in Joe Flacco. This year, it is time to get Flacco some more toys to play with. Tight end is a definite option here, because a tight end is always a young quarterback’s best friend. However, the Ravens currently have one of the best receiving tight ends in football in Todd Heap, and signed TE L.J. Smith away from Philadelphia this offseason. Instead of tight end, the Ravens can now use this pick on an impact receiver to stretch the field for the ever-maturing Joe Flacco. Darrius Heyward-Bey could solve a number of the Ravens’ offensive inefficiencies this year. Heyward-Bey is tall (6’2″) with a great vertical jump (38.5″) and lighting-fast speed (4.30 40-yard-dash). What’s unbelievable is that he has clocked even faster 40 times in his playing career. In 2006, Heyward-Bey was clocked at 4.23 in preseason drills at Maryland. Baltimore could use some depth at defense, but they need to use pick No.26 on a player who could contribute immediately like Heyward-Bey. -SK-

ind27. Peria Jerry – DT (Ole Miss)

Matt Howell is our token Colts fan, which makes him the best writer to explain this pick. He was unavailable, however, so the token Steelers fan will have to do. Peria Jerry is the second best DT available this year, and is definitely a steal at the pick 27. Indianapolis will gain a talented DT with the ability to make an instant impact on the defensive line.  With his incredible strength, Jerry has all the makings of a dominant DT and could turn into a “block eater” like DT Casey Hampton or DT Jamal Williams. Adding Perry here will provide relief to the much maligned Colts run defense. In 2008, it seemed like anyone not named Dwight Freeney couldn’t find the opposing quarterback if given a map, a compass, and an in-helmet microphone which transmitted the opposing team’s snap count.  I initially thought that Jeff Saturday would be gone via free agency, and with that in mind C Alex Mack would have been a great pick here. Mack might be the best o-lineman in this draft when it’s all said and done, and in my opinion could be a hall of fame caliber player in the NFL. However, all that talk is irrelevant now since Jeff Saturday re-signed with Indy, making Peria Jerry a no-brainer for this pick. –AM-

buf28. Brandon Pettigrew – TE (Oklahoma State)
Updated April 22 – Previous Pick: Philadelphia Selected TE Jared Cook–

Dreams really do come true… Sometimes. Buffalo passed on TE Brandon Pettigrew at pick No.11 to address their struggling O-line. This intelligent behavior now rewards them as no team found their tight end situation weak enough to select top-prospect Brandon Pettigrew. Pettigrew is a physical specimen, who scouts believe is more talented at blocking than receiving. What’s most unbelievable is that he was one of the best receiving tight ends in college football last year. This pick is a combination of a high-value pick in Pettigrew and a lack of pass rushers left on the board. Defensive ends were hot in this draft, leaving Buffalo to find Aaron Schobel another pass rusher through some other means. Regardless of other team needs, Brandon Pettigrew is a flat-out steal this late in the draft, and Buffalo will be glad to have him. -SK-

nyg29. Kenny Britt – WR (Rutgers)
Updated April 22 – Previous Pick: WR Percy Harvin–

The New York Giants are in the middle of absolute chaos concerning their next year’s roster. S James Butler is gone to St. Louis, RB Derrick Ward hit the road to Tampa Bay, and the controversy surrounding Cheddar-Plax has left the Giants’ wide receiving corps decimated.  The Giants linebacking corps seemed weak until they signed LB Michael Boley. Boley’s addition allows the Giants to use this pick on an impact wide receiver. Plaxico Burress’ is gone, and the Giants have been involved in a number of high profile wide receiver discussions (e.g. Braylon Edwards, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, etc.). These talks indicate that the Giants are open to pursuing more talent at wideout. Percy Harvin and Kenny Britt are both possibilities here, depending on what type of receiver the Giants wish to pursue. Britt seems more logical, as the Giants are now in need of a possession receiver who QB Eli Manning can rely on in clutch situations. It will take time for Manning and Britt to get used to eachother, but drafting Kenny Britt can definitely pay of if he lives up to his potential. If Cleveland gets it’s way, it will acquire this pick from the Giants in exchange for WR Braylon Edwards. Ironically, Cleveland would most likely also select WR Kenny Britt if they were drafting in this position. I guess the kid is just that popular. –SK-

ten30. Alphonso Smith – CB (Wake Forest)
Updated April 22 – Previous Pick: CB D.J. Moore–

Nate Washington signing with Titans officially killed any possibility of Tennessee taking a wide receiver in the first round. Washington is a potential star, and when you couple his signing with the Titans’ historic unwillingness to draft any receiving talent, it makes wide receiver a virtual impossibility at this pick. With wide receiver out of the question, the Titans should pull the trigger on drafting a young star at cornerback here. The Titans’ starters are set at cornerback, but once you get past the first two (Cortland Finnegan and Nick Harper), the talent takes a sharp downturn. This draft is surprisingly deep at corner (Smith is the third corner off the board in the first round alone) and last year’s crop of defensive backs showed that drafting top-tier talent at cornerback is a solid investment. Alphonso Smith’s combine bumped him up a notch or two on the draft board, and it is possible that he is top shelf talent waiting to be stolen this late in the draft. -SK-

ari31. Chris “Beanie” Wells – RB (Ohio State)
Updated March 30 – Previous Pick: RB Knowshon Moreno–

The Cardinals could score big here if top tier running back talent drops to pick 31. Unlike recent years, there are no elite running backs available, and demand for running backs in the first round has also diminished. Arizona is one of the few teams who is a lock to select a running back in the first round. RB Edgerrin James provided some much-needed yardage in the postseason last year, but next year will be much different. J.J. Arrington eloped with Correll Buckhalter to Denver, while Edgerrin James will most likely be released before next season. This leaves Tim Hightower as the only running back in Arizona’s stable, a problem which has to be addressed sooner rather than later. Beanie Wells has star potential and top-tier talent to complement RB Tim Hightower. If Wells is off the board the Cardinals could also strike gold with RB LeSean McCoy. No matter who it is, Arizona has to take a running back here. –SK-

pit32. William Beatty – OT (Connecticut)

The Pittsburgh Steelers have had an incredibly successful run in terms of re-signing free agent offensive linemen. Tackles Willie Colon and Max Starks, as well as guard Chris Kemoeatu all re-signed with Pittsurgh this offseason, which severely lessened the damage to an already lacking offensive line. Ben Roethlisberger enjoyed life on the ground last year (see his sack totals through the first six weeks of the season), and the offseason had the potential to punish an already under-performing Pittsburgh line. William Beatty provides the Steelers with an NFL-ready offensive tackle that has the versatility to move around the line if needed. All the other tools (especially on the defensive side of the ball) are in place for Pittsburgh to defend their championship, but to improve on last year Pitt needs improve their offensive line. Pittsburgh could go wide receiver here if a star-caliber player is on the board. Kenny Britt is a possibility, but more than likely Pitt will take an o-lineman here and address their receivers later in the draft with someone like Mike Wallace or Derrick Williams. –SK-

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That’s a wrap for Round 1. We will update this Mock Draft as trades, acquisitions, and transactions are made around the league. We know that every move made during the offseason helps shape a team’s draft strategy, and we plan to react to all significant transactions.

Thanks for reading.

RTS Contributors
–Scotty Kimberly–
–Anthony Moore–
–Matt Howell–

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Remember the Sonics! is introducing a new feature called Guest Space. Any reader is welcome to submit their own work for consideration, as long as it falls within the realm of sports history, analysis, projections, etc.

The Guest Space premiere article is from Brian Hodges, an Oklahoma native and avid Oklahoma State Cowboys fan.

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I know it may be heresy to write about Oklahoma City sports on a blog named Remember the Sonics, but please hear me out.

Oklahoma City has never been known as a breeding ground for top-notch athletes. While Hall of Fame athletes like Mickey Mantle, Johnny Bench, and Steve Largent were born and/or raised in Oklahoma City, their time of greatness has long passed. Since then, Oklahomans have been forced to find pride in gymnasts such as Bart Conner and Shannon Miller… And who really cares about gymnastics?

Despite a long run of mediocrity, the past year has been freakishly good for Oklahoma City sports. For example, in the last calendar year players from Oklahoma City hoisted the Heisman Trophy (awarded to the best player in college football) and the Naismith Trophy (awarded to the best player in college basketball).

Here are a few Oklahoma City athletes who had outstanding accomplishments last season:

Sam Bradford – Football – Oklahoma Sooners QB

QB Sam Bradford

QB Sam Bradford

In only his sophomore year, quarterback Sam Bradford led the Oklahoma Sooners to a BCS National Championship. Throwing for over 4,700 yards and 50 touchdowns earned him the Davey O’Brien Award (awarded to the best quarterback in college football) and the most prestigious award in college football, the Heisman Trophy.

At the conclusion of this year’s college football season, Bradford was considered one of the top prospects for the 2009 NFL Draft. Instead of turning pro, however, he decided to return to Oklahoma for his junior year.

Sam Bradford’s 2008 College Football Resume

  • Led Oklahoma to a 12-1 Regular Season Record
  • Won the Big 12 Conference Championship
  • Earned a BCS National Championship Bid
  • Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year
  • AP First Team All-American
  • AP College Football Player of the Year
  • Sporting News Player of the Year
  • Sammy Baugh Trophy Winner
  • Davey O’Brien Award Winner
  • Heisman Trophy Winner

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Blake Griffin – Basketball – Oklahoma Sooners PF/C

griffin

PF/C Blake Griffin

In his sophomore year, Blake Griffin led Oklahoma to the Elite Eight. Griffin owned college basketball this season, averaging 22.7 Points Per Game and an NCAA-Best 14.4 Rebounds Per Game while recording 30 double-doubles. He won every legitimate “Player of the Year” trophy in 2009 and is universally projected as the No.1 pick in the upcoming NBA Draft.

Blake Griffin’s 2008-09 College Basketball Resume

  • Led Oklahoma to a 27-4 Regular Season Record and an Elite Eight Appearance
  • Big 12 Player of the Year
  • Adolph Rupp Award Winner
  • Oscar Robertson Trophy Winner
  • AP First Team All-American
  • Sports Illustrated Player of the Year
  • Sporting News Player of the Year
  • AP College Basketball Player of the Year
  • John Wooden Award Winner
  • Too Many Other POTY Awards to List

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Xavier Henry – Basketball – Putnam City High School SG

xavier

SG Xavier Henry

Oklahoma City’s athletic success carried over to the high school ranks as well.

Xavier Henry, from my alma mater Putnam City High School, was the No.1 ranked college basketball prospect by ESPNU for most last season. He is still considered a top 10 prospect by every major recruiting website.

The 6’6” shooting guard committed to Memphis but is now considering other options since head coach John Calipari accepted the head coaching position at Kentucky. According to various sources, he has narrowed his list to Kansas, Memphis and the now-Calipari-led Kentucky Wildcats.

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Oklahoma City Thunder – NBA Franchise – Established in 2008

Most sports fans know how the Oklahoma City Thunder came to be, but most (former) Seattle Sonics fans are unaware of the Thunder’s impact on it’s new city. 2008 will always be remembered as the year that Oklahoma City finally received a major professional sports team.

While the Thunder struggled through its first season in Oklahoma City, it has a strong young corps of players led by superstar Kevin Durant. The Thunder will have a lottery pick in the 2009 NBA Draft, and have an outside chance at winning the No.1 Pick and adding local icon Blake Griffin to their roster.

Despite this season’s failure, the OKC Thunder are quickly becoming a stylish pick among NBA writers for the “team of the future.” The only question is when the Thunder can put it all together and produce a winning season.

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While the three athletes mentioned above are still very young, their potential is limitless. It is yet to be seen whether they will follow former Oklahoma City football star Brian Bosworth by turning into one of the biggest flops in the sports history or follow one of the Hall of Fame athletes mentioned before and become a legend.

Regardless of where they go from here, their futures are bright.

Oklahoma City sports fans should live it up while they can, because I don’t see Okies winning both the Heisman and the Naismith awards again any time soon.

-BH-

Brian Hodges can be reached at bhodges@harding.edu

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Recently traded quarterback Jay Cutler may have left Denver Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels a unique going-away present.

QB Jay Cutler

QB Jay Cutler

In the early hours of Friday, April 3, Denver Police arrested Kenny Manuel, 17, for allegedly vandalizing McDaniels’ Denver home. Authorities obtained Manuel in an abandoned alleyway just minutes from McDaniels’ house after responding to a 911 call that reported intruders on McDaniels property.

Police treated the incident as an attempted robbery until Manuel handed out one of the most improbable accusations in criminal history. Upon detention, Manuel told authorities that he was hired to vandalize McDaniels’ home by former Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler.

According to Manuel, he met Cutler at a 2007 high school football event and exchanged  text messages once or twice during the 2008 football season. Manuel claims that on April 3, one day after Cutler was traded to the Chicago Bears, he received a text message from Cutler asking for a favor. According to Manuel, Cutler offered to pay $5,000 if he vandalized Josh McDaniels’  home.

Sergeant James Callahan was skeptical of the story’s validity, but maintained that the Denver Police Department will pursue any possibility concerning the case. “Manuel is far from a credible source,” Callahan told reporters, “But we are investigating the circumstances surrounding his arrest from every angle, and expect to have the matter resolved shortly.”

Both Jay Cutler and his agent, Bus Cook, were unavailable for comment.

Editor’s Note: This is a work of fiction. It’s premise, events cited, and quotations are all fictional. It is meant only to comment on the volatile relationship between Jay Cutler and Josh McDaniel.

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QB Jay Cutler

QB Jay Cutler

Breaking news out of Denver on Tuesday night: Team President Pat Bowlen announced that the Denver Broncos, “will begin discussions with other teams in an effort to accommodate [Jay Cutler’s] request to be traded.”

It’s not often that a 25 year old Pro Bowl quarterback is shopped around the NFL, so it’s time to speculate over where Jay Cutler could play in 2009.

The list of potential suitors is already crowded, as a number of teams actively pursued Cutler the first time he was rumored to be available (otherwise known as Cassel-Gate). This list includes teams such as Tampa Bay, San Francisco, and the New York Jets. In my opinion, however, Jay Cutler should be shipped to the only NFL team that is statistically unable to do any worse than their 2008 campaign: the Bad News Lions.

Here is why a trade to the Lions makes sense:

1. The Lions Have the Best Trade Bait Available: The 2009 NFL Draft #1 Pick – If Jay Cutler leaves town, the Broncos management (and the rest of the world) knows that Chris Simms is not the future. No offense to Simms, who played mediocre football at the University of Texas, but if Denver plans on shipping away a Pro Bowl QB, his replacement had better have some serious potential. What better potential can Denver find than the first pick in the NFL Draft? Georgia QB Matt Stafford is slotted as the #1 pick in the majority of NFL Mock Drafts, and if Cutler leaves Denver then Stafford could be the new face of the franchise.

2. The Lions Need a Quarterback – This was news before Jay Cutler hit the trading block. As previously mentioned, everyone and their mother has the Lions taking Matt Stafford with this year’s first pick. I love Daunte Culpepper, but his Minnesota days are a distant memory. With the Millen regime being relieved of duty, Detroit is now officially in a rebuilding phase. The newest acquisition for any rebuilding team should be a franchise quarterback. A new quarterback provides stability at a skill position, a popular player to lead the team, and a new face for the franchise.

3. The Lions Have Other Draft Picks To Fall Back On – If trading away the #1 pick in this year’s draft meant that the Lions were trading out of the first round, then Detroit management would have reason to worry. Fortunately, the Roy Williams trade gave Detroit the #20 pick in this year’s draft as well. This means that the Lions can trade their #1 pick for Jay Cutler and still draft a top-tier player at #20.

4. Jay Cutler Has Everything Detroit Wants From Matt Stafford (Without the Wait) –
Most quarterbacks taken in the first few rounds of the NFL Draft are expected to perform greatly… in a few years. Generally, there is a learning curve with NFL Quarterbacks (see big name rookie quarterbacks not named Ben Roethlisberger or Matt Ryan), and until these players become comfortable in the NFL their team is not expected to win consistently. If the Lions keep the #1 pick in this year’s draft and take Matt Stafford, they should expect Stafford to be ready to lead the team after a few years experience. If the Lions trade for Jay Cutler they will receive everything they expect Stafford to become, but they will reap the benefits in 2009. Cutler is young, talented, and experienced, and his performance levels might be the ceiling for a quarterback like Matt Stafford. Acquiring Cutler allows the Lions to acquire the quarterback of the future who is ready to play right now.

Pro Bowl LB Julian Peterson

LB Julian Peterson

5. The Lions Have Already Had a Phenomenal Offseason – Detroit has been incredibly active this offseason, adding a number of high profile players through both free agency and trading. Most notably, they acquired Pro Bowl linebacker Julian Peterson via trade from Seattle and signed defensive tackle Grady Jackson away from Atlanta. Couple this with three of the first thirty-three draft picks in this year’s draft, and the Lions are poised to have arguably the best offseason of any team in the NFL.

6. The Lions Can Compete… Now –
This is the bullet point that I will probably get harpooned for. Don’t look now, but the Detroit Lions could compete in the NFC North this year. The Lions struggled on both sides of the ball last year, but they have addressed a number of flaws with the previously mentioned offseason transactions. Take a look at their 2009 potential at each position:

  • QB – Quarterback could be addressed by trading for Jay Cutler or drafting one (presumably Matt Stafford) with the #1 pick in this year’s draft. Undoubtedly, the Lions starting QB for 2009 is not on their roster yet
  • RB – Kevin Smith is a talented young back with loads of upside. Also, the Lions signed free agent RB Maurice Morris, who has never had feature back potential but served as a great backup in Seattle
  • WR – Quite simply, Calvin Johnson is a one man receiving corps. Johnson is one of the most talented receivers in the NFL. Detroit also signed a legitimate second option in former San Francisco standout Bryant Johnson
  • OL – Gosder Cherilius (last year’s first round choice) and Jeff Backus are good offensive tackles while Dominic Raiola is maturing at center. The remaining holes can be addressed with later draft picks. If Detroit drafts an OT, look for LT Jeff Backus to move to the interior line. Selecting a talented Guard like Oklahoma’s Duke Robinson with pick #33 would go miles towards improving Detroit’s offensive line
  • DL – Probably the thinnest unit on Detroit’s team, their defensive line received at least some help this offseason. Detroit signed DT Grady Jackson away from Atlanta, bolstering a defensive center which already included DT Chuck Darby. Detroit runs a 3-4, and a strong nose tackle is a must-have. Their defensive ends have potential, but this is another area that Detroit could improve with later round draft picks.
  • LB – Detroit currently rosters two Pro Bowl caliber linebackers in Ernie Sims and Julian Peterson. Peterson was acquired via trade with Seahawks in March and Sims is one of the few Detroit first round draft picks that hasn’t busted (yet…fingers crossed). Detroit could add linebacking depth later in the draft, as their remaining two linebackers leave much to be desired
  • DB – Detroit went on an offseason shopping spree to improve their secondary this offseason. They signed cornerbacks Phillip Buchanon and Eric King, and also acquired Anthony Henry from the Cowboys in mid-2008. Anthony Henry is advancing in his years, and could move to safety if he is unable to play cornerback any more. This move could actually help the Lions defense

This much is sure: Jay Cutler wants out of Denver and the Detroit Lions can offer one of the best packages available.

Read and react with what you think about Cutler to the Lions. Could he lead the Lions to victory, or would a Cutler era in Detroit lead to disaster?

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Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has his own plan to turn around the economic fortunes of the National Football League.

Sources within the NFL claim that Jones met with Commissioner Roger Goodell last week to discuss the possibility of purchasing additional NFL draft picks. According to Jones, selling additional first-round draft picks would allow the NFL to redistribute profits while rewarding teams that generate the most revenue.

Dallas Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones

Dallas Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones

Jones cited Dallas’ recent postseason failures as the motive for seeking additional draft picks. “There are a number of ways to build a winner,” Jones said, “In the past I preferred signing high-profile players like T.O. or outcasts like Pacman, but team chemistry has become an issue.” Jones told the media that he will still acquire significant talent through free agency, but he wants to shift his offseason focus towards the NFL Draft in the years to come. “You can’t buy a championship,” Jones conceded, “I bought every big name I could, but found out that the only way to guarantee success in this league is through the NFL Draft.”

This change in priorities comes at an inopportune time for Jerry Jones, as the Cowboys traded their only 2009 first-round draft choice to Detroit in a mid-season deal for WR Roy Williams. Dallas now stands at a disadvantage to every team who holds a first-round pick; a disadvantage which Jones is fervently trying to eliminate.

Jerry Jones is one of many NFL owners who support the league selling additional first-round draft picks. In 2004, Jones traded the Cowboys first-round pick to the Buffalo Bills and immediately talked to then-Commissioner Paul Tagliabue about the possibility of purchasing another pick in the 2004 draft. Tagliabue quickly rejected Jones’ request, and for a short while the legality of purchasing NFL Draft picks was resolved. The debate remained dormant until the current economic recession struck the NFL.

In December 2008, the economic recession forced the NFL to lay off approximately 14% of its workforce. Jerry Jones saw this as an opportunity to prove the power of money. Through a series of meetings with NFL officials, Jones lobbied for NFL teams to be able to purchase a variety of individual allowances and exceptions. Under Jones’ plan, payments would go directly to the NFL (money which is much needed in the current economic climate) establishing a rewards system for any team who earns significant profits. While Jones proposed several incentives for successful teams, the key proposition in his plan allows NFL teams to purchase a limited number of additional draft picks each year.

Jones is adamant that incentive-based relations with NFL franchises will spike overall production. “Big-money teams should be allowed to make big-money moves,” Jones contests, “A salary cap is great for competition, but eventually teams with money should be allowed to buy success. It’s only fair.”

Jerry Jones believes that the NFL Draft has more potential for profit than any other NFL operation. Under Jones’ plan, the NFL would make 32 additional first round picks available for varying prices. Each pick would have the letter ‘A’ attached to it to distinguish it from the original selection. The lowest pick for sale (#32-A) would be priced at $5 million, with successive picks increasing by $300,000 per pick (e.g. pick #31-A would cost $5.3 million, pick #30-A would cost $5.6 million, etc.). Jones has not been shy about discussing numbers, as overall his plan could raise over $300 million through the sales of draft picks.

Jerry Jones (L) and Roger Goodell

Jerry Jones (L) and Roger Goodell

Commissioner Goodell rejected Jones offer to purchase a first-round pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, asserting that it would erode the integrity of the game. “Fans won’t like the idea of teams buying championships,” Goodell claimed, “This isn’t baseball, there are no Yankees, and I won’t let one team with a lot of money bully the remaining 31.” Goodell told reporters that the additional revenue would be great, but it could cost the NFL a large number of fans. “In the end, that’s all this game is about,” Goodell concluded, “The owners are stuck here. They are financially vested in the success of each team. The fans, however, are not dependent on this league’s financial success, and if we betray their trust then the game could lose more than just money.”

Despite this controversial issue making headlines, Goodell found solace in the fact that the other American major sports are facing economic and moral hardships as well. “Thank God we are playing football,” Goodell joked, “I don’t need the steroid controversies from baseball, I don’t need the anonymity from hockey, and I certainly don’t want to orchestrate individual team bailouts like David Stern is working on in basketball.”

Jerry Jones remains positive about the Cowboys’ future, as well as the future of NFL draft pick sales. “[The Cowboys] will be fine,” Jones said in a recent press release, “We do not have a first-round draft pick this April, but I spoke with my friend Hank Steinbrenner and he assured me that if I keep plugging money into my team, they have to win some time.”

As for the purchase of draft picks, Jones assured his fans that money will eventually trump all other issues. “Commissioner Goodell told me that the integrity of football is more important than a potential $300 million,” Jones said, “But if the economy continues to pressure the NFL, big-money teams like Dallas will eventually have the opportunity to buy additional draft picks. It might be morally gray, but I’ve got a checkbook big enough to talk the world into it.”

Jerry Jones has a series of meetings over the next three weeks with Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis, and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft. It remains to be seen whether not Jones will press the issue of draft pick sales, but for now there is a calm in the proverbial storm.

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Editor’s Note: This is a work of satire. It’s premise, events cited, and quotations are all fictional. It is meant to expose the impersonal and impractical nature of Jerry Jones’ tenure as the Cowboys owner/general manager, as well as provide commentary on the money-driven decision-making process in modern American sports.

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