Bold Prediction: Earl Thomas wins defensive rookie of the year over the Chief’s Eric Berry.
Rd. 1, 6th overall, OT Russell Okung, OSU: Most scouts and other “experts” considered Okung the top left tackle prospect in this class. A few mocks had him going to Detroit 2nd overall or Washington at 4th overall. At 20 years old, Okung will start right away and will be replacing future Hall-of-Famer Walter Jones; who is expected to retire. Jones, who was the 6th overall pick in 1997, was a mainstay at LT for 13 years. Protecting the QB is becoming more important every year and being able to lock down the position for 20+ years in a row will be a nice luxury for the Hawks. He’s said to be a mauler with good pass protection skills. It’s difficult to find good highlights of o-lineman and as a 49er fan I despise the Hawks and everything they do; so I’ll just link this cheap shot and call him a dirty player!
Rd. 1, 14th overall, S Earl Thomas, UT: Eric Berry overshadowed Thomas a bit in this process and in another year Thomas could have been considered a top 10 talent or the “next” Ed Reed. He has amazing ball-hawk skills. Check out this highlight video and at about the 1:11 mark they breakdown an interception. On ESPN he said he recognized this play from before and just jumped the route. He can play corner and safety, and play them well. The Hawks will probably use his talents as a safety. He’s kind of a smaller guy, but he can make a hit if he needs to.
Rd. 2, 60th overall, WR Golden Tate, ND: There’s no question the Hawks need help at receiver. They found great value here. Tate came out after his junior year, but he’s considered one of the most NFL ready receivers in the draft class. He should come in and compete for that #2 spot with Branch and Butler. The knock on him is that he catches the ball too close to his body and not enough with his hands, but he’s a capable deep threat and great after the catch. He doesn’t shy from contact and he competes for the ball. He’s also not afraid to go over the middle. Check out this TD and his band dive. How about that song? Here’s another highlight reel. Notice how he catches the ball with his body. Might lead to some drops. He was a halfback in high school and even looks like a running back, which might explain his pass catching technique.
Some late round picks: Walter Thurmond (4th rd, 111th) is a talented corner, but is coming off a knee injury that sidelined him for most of 2009. The upside is worth the pick and he’ll provide depth. Kam Chancellor (5th rd, 133rd) is a big physical safety capable of playing down in the box, but is a liability in coverage. He’ll likely be used on special teams. Anthony McCoy (6th rd, 185th) will follow Carroll from USC to Seattle and become the #2 TE. He’s a capable blocker and pass catcher and can contribute behind John Carlson.
After years of bad picks, the Raiders finally got some good value! The Raiders were a good team last year when they had good QB play. They beat some top teams and they seem like a team on the rise. Davis clearly wants to “just win baby” and they have a chance to do that in 2010. By making a draft day trade for QB Jason Campbell the Raiders have said no more to JaMarcus Russell. Campbell needed a fresh start and so did the Raiders at QB. Campbell will help highlight some of these top picks over the last few years and the Raiders offense should be much improved. They also used picks to add some defensive depth via trade, including OLB Kamerion Wimbley and DE Quentin Groves. They looked like a team with a plan after using their first two picks on inside linebacker Rolando McClain and defensive tackle Lamarr Houston to add to the front seven. They added some high ceiling tackles Edwin Veldheer and Bruce Campbell in the 3rd and 4th rounds and added depth to their secondary in the later rounds. It was a good draft for a team looking to win more games in 2010. Post-draft prediction: 8-8, 2nd in AFC East.
Bold Prediction: McClain leads the AFC West in tackles.
Rd. 1, 8th overall, MLB Rolando McClain, Alabama: McClain is a beast and will help the 29th ranked defense against the run. The “experts” say it’s a little early to draft a middle linebacker, but he won a National Championship and the Dick Butkus award while at Alabama. Guys like McClain don’t come around often. The guy doesn’t have elite speed, but he can get sideline to sideline. He’s a ferocious tackler too. The improvement of Oakland’s defensive line will allow McClain to roam free and make plays. Check out these highlights. Again, this guy is a beast and should be a fun Raider to watch. He’ll look good in the silver and black.
Rd. 2, 44th overall, DT Lamarr Houston, UT: The Raiders are considering a switch to a 3-4 defense in order to fit the abilities of their players more effectively. Houston is said to be versatile enough to play the nose or end. So it’s likely he would compete for playing time at both. He has great motor and is relentless in his pass rush. His strength though is his ability to create push at the point of attack, and he should be one of many trying to take on blockers to free up McClain to make plays.
Some late round picks: In the 3rd and 4th rounds the Raiders drafted a couple of high upside offensive tackles. Edwin Veldheer (3rd rd, 69th) is 6’8” with good feet for a left tackle. Bruce Campbell (4th rd, 106th) is a workout warrior and showed it at the combine. Some scouts gave him a 1st round grade for potential. Believe it or not, the Raiders literally drafted a track star this year with receiver Jacoby Ford (4th rd, 108th) from Clemson. How could Davis resist? The Raiders selected 3 defensive backs Walter McFadden (5th rd, 138th), Jeremy Ware (7th rd, 215th), Steven Brown (7th rd, 251st) and linebacker Travis Goethel (6th rd, 190th) who should all compete for a roster spots, provide depth, and help on special teams.
San Francisco 49ers
Bold Prediction: Gore rushes for 1,500+ yards behind the Niners revamped o-line.
Rd. 1, 11th overall, OT Anthony Davis, Rutgers: The Niners traded up two spots in order to get the guy they targeted at a good value. At the time it made no sense and felt like a waste of a 4th round pick, but the Niners didn’t want a team to jump ahead of them to draft Davis. Davis is young and considered a bit developmental. He’s considered good enough to start right away and he’ll likely line up at the right in 2010. He may eventually switch sides with Staley if he shows that he is a premier pass-blocker. Right tackle was the one of the biggest weaknesses for the Niners and they turned it into a strength.
Rd. 1, 17th overall, OG Mike Iupati, Idaho: Listening to Mike Singletary talk about Iupati and Davis made it feel like the Niners targeted these 2 players all along. Iupati is considered by a few to be the most likely pro bowler out of this entire draft. The guy is huge and should be good at clearing huge running lanes for the next 10 years. Gore should have fun running behind him. Iupati will likely come in and take over for David Baas at left guard. The Niners have built a nice offensive line. Would you want to go up against this guy?
Rd. 2, 49th overall, S Taylor Mays, USC: Mays was the sexy pick for the Niners. He fits right into the Singletary philosophy of being fast and physical. There was a rumor of a 4.24 40 for a little bit, but that was exaggerated. There are concerns that Mays is a liability in coverage, but he can lay the wood. He’s not going to be asked to cover wide-outs in man coverage. He’s replacing Mike Lewis, who is a physical in the box type of safety. So as long as Mays can be as good as Lewis in coverage this should be an improvement to the defense. A lot of Niner fans wanted them to draft Mays because of the Ronnie Lott-USC connection. He’s not the same type of safety as Lott though. He’s more in the Rodney Harrison mold. He goes for the hit more than the ball. Watch the hits.
Some late round picks: Navarro Bowman (3rd rd, 91st) is an outside linebacker being converted to inside “Ted” backer. He’ll be the eventual successor to Takeo Spikes. HB Anthony Dixon (6th rd, 173rd) has an impressive highlight reel. Be sure to watch the interview at the end. It’s like if Ol’ Dirty Bastard played halfback. TE Nate Byham (6th rd, 182nd) is a blocking tight end. WR Kyle Williams (6th rd, 206th) has a ton of speed and could be utilized in the return game and an eventually as a slot receiver.
Undrafted free agents: The Niners signed two interesting names immediately after the draft. HB LeGarrette Blount, the guy who was suspended for his entire senior season for this sucker punch. He has 2nd round talent, but the character concerns caused him to not be drafted. The other player they signed was kr/pr LeRoy Vann. He’s tiny, but he’s lightning quick on kick returns. He might compete with Ginn for the return duties. The Niners definitely added nasty, ghetto, and attitude to their roster.
***Note: Blount backed out of his agreement to terms with the Niners and signed a deal with the Titans. I guess you could say he threw another sucker punch, a-ha!
San Diego Chargers
Bold Prediction: Mathews rushes for 1,000+ yards and finishes in top 3 for offensive rookie of the year.
Rd. 1, 12th overall, HB, Ryan Mathews, Fresno State: The Chargers are handing the keys to the run game to Fresno State alum Ryan Mathews. Darren Sproles will play a big roll, but Mathews should be the workhorse. He’s a downhill runner with good vision and balance and always seems to fall forward. I’ve heard one comparison to Frank Gore. He will be used in between the tackles, but he does have the speed to get to the edge and break off long runs. The knock on him is that he didn’t have to contribute to the passing game while at Fresno. He was not used in protection or in pass catching situations all that much and he could use improvement in those areas, but that’s not why San Diego drafted him. This is why.
Some late round picks: Donald Butler (3rd rd, 79th) is an athletic and strong linebacker and has all the tools to be a solid starter for the Bolts in a couple years. He set a record at the combine for bench presses by a linebacker. He just lacks the instincts to be as effective as someone like McClain. Safety Darrell Stuckey (4th rd, 110th) is another player that can develop into a solid starter, but lacks football knowledge and instincts to start right away. He did single-handily beat Missouri. DT Cam Thomas (5th rd, 146th) is a two gap defensive lineman that fits San Diego’s scheme and will provide depth. Jonathon Crompton (5th rd, 168th) is a developmental QB from Tennessee and TE Dedrick Epps (7th rd, 235) is considered more of an H-back in the mold of Chris Cooley. He is a liability as a blocker, but he’s athletic with good hands.
Bold Prediction: Dez Bryant scores 10 touchdowns in 2010.
Rd. 1, 24th overall, WR Dez Bryant, OSU: Bryant could have been a top ten if he didn’t get suspended for the 2009 season and for other character concerns. He did forget his cleats and there are concerns of his family and childhood. The Cowboys are never scared to take a chance at a rare talent like Bryant. Jerry Jones said he would not let another talented wide receiver slip through his hands like he did with Randy Moss, years ago. I know one fan that wanted them to draft Taylor Mays, but trust me you’re better off with the guy you got. Roy Williams has been reassured that his starting spot is safe along with his $13 million, but is has to be assumed that Bryant will play a significant role from day one. Here are some of his highlights.
Rd. 2, 55th overall, ILB Sean Lee, Penn State: Lee is considered small for a linebacker, but he has good instincts and is good at shedding blocks. I’ve heard comparisons to Zach Thomas. Lee will have a shot to earn a starting job, but he’ll likely add depth and contribute to special teams in year 1. Is Sean Lee the steal of the draft?
Some late round picks: Akwasi Owusu-Ansah (4th rd, 126th) is a cornerback that may be converted to safety. If he does remain at corner, he’ll be asked to play press as a nickel. He adds some value as a kick returner. Sam Young (6th rd, 179th) will provide depth along the offensive line. He has good strength, but lacks the athleticism needed to be consistent. Jamar Wall (6th rd, 196th) is a corner that should provide depth and play special teams. Watch this hit.
The Dolphins have had one of the top off-seasons in the NFL. Their 4 biggest needs were ILB, OLB, WR, and S. They filled a need by signing inside linebacker Karlos Dansby. Of course, they traded for Brandon Marshall! The nose tackle is considered the most important position in a 3-4 defense. The dolphins sort of addressed that in the 1st round, trading back to accumulate picks and selecting defensive tackle Jared Odrick 28th overall. In the 2nd round, the Fins addressed the loss of Jason Taylor and Joey Porter by selecting outside linebacker Koa Misi. The fins drafted four linebackers in total. They also added guard John Jerry for depth and help in the secondary. The Dolphins are a good team filling in the pieces. Henne to Marshall is big for them this season. In another division they could be a 10-6 team and in the playoffs. Post-draft prediction: 8-8, 3rd in AFC “Beast”.
Bold Prediction: Misi and Odrick combine for 12 sacks.
Rd. 1, 28th overall, DT Jared Odrick, Penn State: Odrick is a 5-technique defensive tackle, a good fit for a 3-4 defense, but not a true nose. A 5-technique DT is used as an end for the 3-4. Adding depth to the position will help out the rotation until they find a true nose tackle. Odrick is a talented player and can get to the quarterback. After losing both outside linebackers, the Fins need to find sacks from other positions in 2010. He could be a good source.
Rd.2, 40th overall, OLB Koa Misi, Utah: Misi is making the transition for defensive end to OLB to fit the 3-4. Misi has a knack for getting to the QB and should show a ton of value in that regard. I’ve seen him referred to as a “dynamic” pass rusher. He’s strong enough to hold up against the run and will earn him playing time immediately. Here are some highlights.
Some late round picks: John Jerry (3rd rd, 73rd) is an offensive guard who will provide depth and has upside to potentially develop into a starter. A.J. Edds (4th rd, 119th), Chris McCoy (7th rd, 212), and Austin Spitler (7th rd, 252) will all provide depth to the linebacker corps. Edds will compete with Camerion Wake for playing time opposite of Misi. McCoy and Spitler will contribute on special teams. Safety Reshad Jones (5th rd, 163rd) is real talented and could be a steal. He needs to show improvement to overall instincts and football knowledge and he could develop into a starter with upside. Check out this hit.
The Panthers may have lucked into a good draft. They didn’t have a 1st round pick, but that didn’t matter. They ended the draft with 10 picks and an overall good haul. The Panthers have a super bowl worthy rushing attack and a solid defense. However, they have been missing a QB since the sudden collapse of Jake Delhomme. The Panthers also need to finally find that #2 wide out and a replacement for Julius Peppers. That is what the Panthers focused on and why they had a good draft despite not having a 1st round pick. After snatching up the quarterback Jimmy Clausen in the 2nd round, the Panthers drafted 2 wide receivers; Brandon LaFell and former Appalachian state quarterback Armanti Edwards. They found help for their front 7 in the middle rounds and finished up with 3 defensive backs and another QB with a lot of upside, Tony Pike. The Panthers were the favorites to take the NFC South in 2009 before the emergence of the Super Bowl Champion Saints. The Falcons are on the rise and the NFC south will be competitive. The Panthers get enough out of their new QB and the run game to make the playoffs. Post-draft prediction: 10-6, 2nd in NFC South.
Bold Prediction: Jimmy Clausen leads the Panthers to a playoff berth.
Rd. 2, 48th overall, QB Jimmy Clausen, ND: The Panthers had a pressing need at QB and no 1st round pick and somehow the #2 QB on most people’s boards fell all the way to them in the 2nd round! Talk about the luck of the Irish! There is probably a reason Clausen fell to the 2nd round, but he was considered the most NFL ready of any of the top quarterbacks in the draft and he’s in a good situation with Carolina. They run the same offense Clausen ran at Notre Dame. So he should come in prepared to compete for the job. He’ll have the spot at some point, unless Matt Moore shines. It would be good for Clausen to enjoy some early success to give him the confidence to lead the Panthers the way Mark Sanchez did with the Jets in ’09. Let’s just hope that Steve Smith doesn’t punch Clausen at any point. Smith has been known to punch teammates and Clausen is known as someone who gets punched. Anyway, Here are some highlights.
Some late round picks: Wide receiver Brandon LaFell (3rd rd, 78th) will compete for the spot opposite of Steve Smith. It’s said that he has some of the biggest upside of any receiver in the class. Former Appalachian state QB Armanti Edwards (3rd rd, 89th) will play receiver for the Panthers. LaFell is a bigger possession type receiver and Edwards is more of an explosive type receiver. Edwards will be a project and could contribute in the wildcat formation. His better is better. Outside linebacker Eric Norwood (4th rd, 124th) will compete for playing time as both a weak side and strong side backer. Defensive end Hardy (6th rd, 175th) has commitment issues apparently and will have to show an improved work ethic. He is said to have 2nd-3rd round talent. David Gettis (6th rd, 198th) is another receiver who will compete for playing time. Quarterback Tony Pike (6th rd, 204th) was highly productive at Cincinnati and should come in ready to compete. He’ll be a nice project quarterback in case the whole Clausen thing doesn’t work out.
Bold Prediction: Major Wright earns the starting job and makes 6 interceptions.