Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Are you ready for some football?

By John Gottlieb
The Phanatic Magazine

It’s Christmas morning for the true NFL fan. In between the NHL and NBA playoffs and pre-Derby chatter every April brings us a new football season, reminding us that training camp is just three short months away. It’s like the football season never ended.

It doesn’t matter that it’s a beautiful, sunny 80 degrees outside because you have a date with your television. You want to see who’ll be drafted first but you can’t just get up and leave after that. Where will Brady Quinn or Adrian Peterson go? Will the Vikings space out and skip their pick? Which players are going to fall, and what teams are going to get lucky that they did?

By the time the Eagles pick it’ll be 5:30 and the day is shot…or is it? Will they take a lineman or will they go after a safety? It’s one of the few spring Saturdays each year that you can veg on your couch all day and nobody can call you a bum. (Well they can but who the hell cares, it's the NFL Draft.)

After a six-plus hour first round the real draftniks come out and stay excited because there is still another full day and six more rounds of selections. You don’t get annoyed at Mel Kiper, Jr. anymore because this is his one day to shine; Chris Berman’s nicknames and waxing poetic about how long he’s been covering the draft seem tolerable; and we hold our collective breaths until Roger Goodell comes out and announces that there has been a trade.

We’ve been bringing you the latest mock drafts from reputable Web sites, but why not do our own? I’ve read everything there is to read and looked at all the scouting reports that I can find, and with that I bring you my second mock draft.

With the first pick in the 2007 NFL Draft…

1) Oakland Raiders (2-14) – QB JaMarcus Russell – LSU – Amidst the question as to whether it's Russell or Calvin Johnson to begin the Lane Kiffin era I'm sticking with Russell. Johnson is the sure thing but you can't build your franchise around a wide receiver, just ask...the Raiders.

2) Detroit Lions (3-13) – DE – Gaines Adams – Clemson – The Lions are actively trying to trade down since taking Adams here is a bit of a reach. That being said Adams has shot up the board since the last mock draft, and it seems as if Rod Marinelli has convinced Matt Millen that defense is the best way to mold the team.

3) Cleveland Browns (4-12) – QB – Brady Quinn – Notre Dame – Quinn's status in the draft reminds me of a roller coaster. One day he's a lock in the top three and the next he's overrated and just a top-10 pick. He's made it known he wants to play near his hometown for the Browns and he will get his wish.

4) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-12) – WR – Calvin Johnson – Georgia Tech – It's unusual the consensus best player in the draft isn't taken with the first pick, but Johnson will fall to the Bucs, who are in desperate need of overhauling the receiving corps. Years from now people will think that Tampa Bay got the steal of the draft.

5) Arizona Cardinals (5-11) – T – Joe Thomas – Wisconsin – With the loss of Leonard Davis the Cardinals need someone to play left guard. Thomas is the best O-lineman in the draft and would fit in nicely, despite the right being Matt Leinart's blind-side. Thomas is a safe pick, especially with a young quarterback.

6) Washington Redskins (5-11) – DT – Amobi Okoye – Louisville – He’s young (19), but there is tremendous upside as he hovers near 300 pounds. The Redskins got to the quarterback a league and franchise-worst 19 times and need a difference maker on the line. With Adams already gone Okoye has the biggest upside.

7) Minnesota Vikings (6-10) – RB – Adrian Peterson – Oklahoma – There are a lot of positions that the Vikings need to address, including wide receiver and defensive end, but this will be a case of taking the best player available. When it comes to potential All-Pro type players in this year's draft, the conversation begins with Calvin Johnson and Peterson, who will have to shed the durability concerns. This would be a steal at No. 7. There is talk that Peterson won't make it past the Browns at No. 3.

8) Atlanta Falcons (from Houston) (7-9) – S – LaRon Landry – LSU – He is an excellent defender against the run and the pass. His 40 time of 4.35 has solidified him as a top-10 player. They would like to get bigger on the offensive line so Levi Brown seems like a good pick, but Landry is tops in the draft for safeties and that is another need position for the Falcons.

9) Miami Dolphins (6-10) – OT – Levi Brown – Penn St. – The Dolphins need to replace tackle Damion McIntosh, who signed with Kansas City, and Brown would fill the need on the left side. If Quinn somehow begins to drop look for Miami, which has three picks in the top 60, to make a strong push.

10) Houston Texans (from Atlanta) (6-10) – DE – Jamaal Anderson – Arkansas – As long as last year’s top draft choice, Mario Williams, pans out to be the superstar the Texans thought they were getting, this would make for an intimidating defensive line for years to come. If Peterson is available he’ll be the pick but he shouldn’t slide that far. Houston is in more need of a defensive tackle but Anderson has a huge upside.

11) San Francisco 49ers (7-9) – DT – Alan Branch – Michigan – After throwing a lot of money around in the free agent market the 49ers can choose the best player available. They need help on the offensive line, but after Thomas and Brown there is a huge drop-off. Mike Nolan will look for Branch to be the anchor in the middle of the 3-4 defense.

12) Buffalo Bills (7-9) – CB – Leon Hall – Michigan – The loss of Nate Clements was big for the secondary so look for the Bills to improve that area of need. This secondary class is very deep and Hall is a good cover guy that also excels at stopping the run. A 4.4 in the 40 has his stock rising.

13) St. Louis Rams (8-8) – DE-DT – Adam Carriker – Nebraska – The Rams putrid defense was the worst in the league against the run, giving up 2,327 yards for 145 yards per game and 4.9 per carry. They need help in the front seven and Carriker, who had seven sacks and 16 tackles for a loss last year, can be a addition to a defense that will be a big focus for the Rams on Saturday.

14) Carolina Panthers (8-8) – TE – Greg Olsen – Miami (Fla.) – At 6-6, 240 Olsen runs good routes and has excellent hands. He needs to improve his blocking techniques, but should be a good addition to John Fox’s offense, which will utilize the tight end more this season. He took a step back last season, averaging only 12.2 yards per catch, but he has decent speed for a tight end and will be used to free up space for Steve Smith and Keyshawn Johnson.

15) Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8) – LB – Patrick Willis – Mississippi – Under new head coach Mike Tomin the Steelers are moving from a 3-4 to the Cover 2 defense and need a linebacker that can get to the quarterback from the outside. Willis is a very good pass rusher (11 career sacks at Ole Miss) and can go sideline-to-sideline (career-best 137 tackles last season). However, he’ll need to get a bigger (242 pounds) to succeed at the next level.

16) Green Bay Packers (8-8) – RB – Marshawn Lynch – California – The Packers need a playmaker in the running game now that Ahman Green signed with the Texans. There are only two surefire first round running backs and Peterson will already be gone. Lynch is the next best thing. At 215 pounds Lynch is not easy to bring down whether it’s inside or outside. He runs good routes out of the backfield and should be a big weapon for Brett Favre.

17) Jacksonville Jaguars (8-8) – S – Reggie Nelson – Florida – Nelson excelled in his second Division I campaign last season with the champion Gators. He is a big-time hitter within his six-foot, 200-pound frame. He reminds me a lot of Rodney Harrison, who makes opposing players know where he is on the field at all times. He’s also not afraid to come up and help stop the run. This is a solid pick after the loss of Deon Grant.

18) Cincinnati Bengals (8-8) – CB – Darrelle Revis – Pittsburgh – After picking off four passes in 2005, Revis took a step back last season, making only two interceptions. He may be too good for Pittsburgh to pass up at No. 15, but Revis will be a big addition to the 31st rated pass defense of the Bengals. The addition of Revis means the Bengals can keep Madieu Williams at free safety.

19) Tennessee Titans (8-8) – WR – Robert Meachem – Tennessee – Wide receivers Drew Bennett and Bobby Wade are both gone and the Titans need someone to pair with Vince Young to make the offense explosive. At 6-2, 214 with 4.39-speed, Meachem is a perfect deep threat for Young. The two can become a dominant force under Norm Chow.

20) New York Giants (8-8) – OT – Joe Staley – Central Michigan – With the release of Luke Petitgout the Giants are in need of some help on the offensive line. Staley, 6-5, 306 pounds, can fit right into to protect Eli Manning’s blind-side. He’s got fantastic footwork and good speed for a player that transferred over from tight end just a few years ago.

21) Denver Broncos (9-7) – DE – Jarvis Moss –Florida – Moss had 11 tackles for a loss and 7 ½ sacks last season for the Gators. The Broncos added Dre’ Bly opposite Champ Bailey and need to start adding young, big bodies to the D-line. He’s a raw product, but if he adds weight (250), he can become a solid end.

22) Dallas Cowboys (9-7) – CB – Aaron Ross – Texas – The addition of Ross will free up the Cowboys to move Anthony Henry to safety, where the Cowboys have a weakness. Ross isn’t as fast as you would like but he’s big enough that receivers won’t tower over him. Ross won the Thorpe Award as the top defensive back after starting for only one year. He’s also a sensational talent returning kicks on special teams.

23) Kansas City Chiefs (9-7) – OT – Tony Ugoh – Arkansas – The Chiefs have lost Will Shields and Willie Roaf in back-to-back years and now are hurting on the offensive line. It’s a weak year for offensive lineman so the Chiefs will take a reach on a lineman. He’s great at opening up holes and went up against top competition in the SEC week-in and week-out. However, he’ll have to bulk up from just over 300 pounds.

24) New England Patriots (from Seattle) (9-7) – LB – Jon Beason – Miami – He can play inside or out, which should help spell an aging linebacker crew. Tedy Bruschi will be 34, Rosevelt Colvin 30 and Mike Vrabel will turn 32 as of next year. The Pats have to start getting younger so they aren't hit with a defensive crisis. He’s got good speed and has a nose for the ball. He’s always around the action, making 92 tackles, including 10 for a loss, last year. If Beason is gone the Pats may go after Penn State linebacker Paul Posluszny.

25) New York Jets (10-6) – CB – Chris Houston – Arkansas – The Jets need a good cover guy and Houston fits that role. He has excellent speed but may be a little too short to become a shutdown corner. He broke up 13 passes and picked off three balls last season. Houston was counted on to go against the top wideouts in the SEC and did a very good job. His lack of size makes him a liability against the run.

26) Philadelphia Eagles (10-6) – S – Michael Griffin – Texas – Griffin is quickly moving up the board at the right time. He hits like a Mack truck and has got 4.45-speed to make up ground. The loss of Michael Lewis makes this a need position for Philly. He also is a fantastic special teams player that is adept at blocking kicks. His big hit ability also makes him good against the run.

27) New Orleans Saints (10-6) – DT –Justin Harrell – Tennessee – This a down year for defensive tackles which means that teams may take a leap. The Saints need help in the secondary but all of the best prospects will be gone. Harrell missed most of his senior season with a torn biceps but he is healthy and will be a run-stopper for the Saints. Due to a deep class for the secondary there will be some playmakers when New Orleans picks in the second round.

28) New England Patriots (12-4) – S – Brandon Meriweather – Miami (Fla.) – This is another area of concern for New England since Harrison is injury prone. Meriweather saw his stock drop after playing a big role in the brawl with Florida International as well as some other legal issues, but he’s got the talent and the speed (4.47) to keep him in the first round. He can play corner as well as safety. However, don’t be surprised if the Pats take a stab at Ohio State wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez with this pick since Scott Pioli and Bill Belichick really like his talent.

29) Baltimore Ravens (13-3) – OT – Justin Blalock – Texas – He is a monster of a man at 6-3, 320, and will be the first step in rebuilding an offensive line that is getting older. Blalock was a guard for most of his career but he’s a versatile lineman and should be able to make the transition to tackle. He’ll have to improve his footwork and become a better pass protector. If the Ravens don’t want to take Blalock so high they may go after the best available cornerback (i.e. Tennessee’s Jonathan Wade or Fresno State’s Marcus McCauley).

30) San Diego Chargers (14-2) – WR – Dwayne Jarrett – USC – This is a deep class for wide receivers but teams have become leery about drafting them too high. There are a lot of teams that are going to pass on Jarrett because of his subpar speed (4.62), but this will be a big mistake. Jarrett’s got great hands; he’s a good route runner and has got the size (6-4, 219) to be big time playmaker. His stock has been falling and it’ be a travesty if he falls to the second round. He’ll be the receiver that will go over the middle for Philip Rivers.

31) Chicago Bears (13-3) – WR – Dwayne Bowe – LSU – He’s got size and isn’t afraid to take a hit. Bowe will become a go-to receiver in the red zone, but still needs a lot of work to become a threat. He has a tendency to catch the ball with his body and has a hard time separating on the line. With some grooming Bowe will be the guy that replaces Muhsin Muhammad. That being said he’s got great leaping ability and a great wingspan to wrestle balls away from shorter cornerbacks.

32) Indianapolis Colts (12-4) – LB – Paul Posluszny – Penn State – Posluszny’s draft status fell after a subpar senior season. He moved from the inside to the outside after tearing up his knee in the 2005 Orange Bowl. He’s great against the run and takes great angles to get to the ball carrier. He’s got the sideline-to-sideline ability that will help the Colts defense. He’s not great at getting to the quarterback or in pass coverage, but he is ferociously intense and will be a good piece to Tony Dungy’s defense.

-- Great second round picks include Ohio State wide receivers Ted Ginn, Jr. and Anthony Gonzalez, Purdue defensive end Anthony Spencer, Georgia cornerback Jonathan Wade, Fresno State cornerback Marcus McCauley, Georgia defensive end Charles Johnson, Auburn guard Ben Grubbs, Tennessee guard Arron Spears, Florida State linebacker Lawrence Timmons, USC center Ryan Kalil, Stanford quarterback Trent Edwards, Arizona State tight end Zach Miller, and Rutgers running back Brian Leonard.
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