I’m fully aware this is an exercise in futility, but I just can’t help myself. The following is what I predict will happen not what should happen during the NFL Draft this weekend. And I’m only going top-15, which is a crapshoot enough as is.
1. Miami Dolphins: Jake Long – A done deal.
2. St. Louis Rams: Glenn Dorsey – A trade is possible here, but Dorsey seems like the safest and best player in this draft. Adam Carriker would then move to end.
3. Atlanta Falcons: Chris Long – Now this could ruin the rest of my mock if Atlanta goes Matt Ryan instead. Long hasn’t really even been linked to the Falcons, but they certainly could use the defensive help, and Atlanta feels they can address the QB situation in Round 2. Still, ownership may push for Ryan here.
4. Oakland Raiders: Darren McFadden – Especially if Michael Bush returns healthy, Oakland has quite possibly the deepest RB corps in the league right now. However, there isn’t a lot of money tied up in the position, and Al Davis is enamored with speed. Make no mistake, Davis has final say and personally makes all the Raiders’ draft selections. He can’t help himself and takes McFadden.
5. Kansas City Chiefs: Ryan Clady – Kansas City is after players who can start right away and has done a nice job compiling numerous picks in a deep draft class. They might address defensive line here after dealing Jared Allen, but they have a bigger need on the offensive line, and Clady can help immediately.
6. New York Jets: Vernon Gholston – Gholston is all about upside with eye-popping measurables. However, he’s also been accused of being a workout wonder. He set the Ohio State record with 14 sacks last season, but he recorded seven in two games (Michigan and Wisconsin), disappearing in many others. The Jets will look at what the Giants did to stop division rival Tom Brady and the Pats last year and address the D-line, but there’s some bust potential here.
7. New England Patriots: Branden Albert – One of the biggest risers in this year’s draft, Albert can play any position on the offensive line and will turn into the better pro than Ryan Clady, which means he’ll naturally be drafted by the Patriots. He was only moved to guard at Virginia because D’Brickashaw Ferguson was playing left tackle. New England could go Sedrick Ellis here, but you can be sure they’ll take a lineman either way.
8. Baltimore Ravens: Matt Ryan – Ryan may or may not turn into a franchise quarterback, but Baltimore can’t afford not to find out. Ryan might slip a bit, but there’s no way he takes a Brady Quinn type plunge. There are too many teams in need of QB help, with Baltimore at the top of the list.
9. Cincinnati Bengals: Sedrick Ellis – After losing Chris Henry and soon to lose Chad Johnson, the Bengals may have gone WR here, but there really isn’t one worthy of being selected this high. Rashard Mendenhall is another option, but after getting consistently burned with early RB selections in the past, Cincy addresses their weaker side of the ball and takes Ellis.
10. New Orleans Saints: Leodis McKelvin – The Saints really want Sedrick Ellis but will settle for McKelvin instead. New Orleans is desperate for help in the secondary.
11. Buffalo Bills: Devin Thomas – He might be a bit of a reach, but the Bills have never shied from drafting based on team needs (see: Donte Whitner). Wide receiver is a glaring need, and Thomas has the size and speed the offense is missing.
12. Denver Broncos: Rashard Mendenhall – I know, the Broncos never take a runner this high, and I’m certainly not saying they should, but this is a team that hasn’t had an elite RB since Clinton Portis left in 2003. Mendenhall fits the Broncos’ system perfectly; a patient back whose style is one-cut and go, which is ideal for their zone scheme. Fantasy owners salivate.
13. Carolina Panthers: Derrick Harvey – Harvey has been linked to Carolina so often, maybe it’s a case of smokescreening. For now, I’ll take it at face value and predict the Panthers select the defensive end from Florida.
14. Chicago Bears: Jeff Otah – The Bears have an aging defense and need serious help at quarterback, wide receiver and running back. While taking a running back also makes sense here, offensive line is as big of a need, and the team can address the RB position later on.
15. Detroit Lions: Jonathan Stewart – There’s a strong chance Detroit takes Jerod Mayo instead, but the Lions typically have a hard time passing on offensive skill positions. Stewart underwent toe surgery this offseason, but he should be fine for the season and could ultimately turn out to be the best back from this year’s class.