I love the NFL draft. Other than the beginning of the baseball season and perhaps March Madness, the Draft is my favorite event. I also love the absurd coverage and millions of mock drafts that continue to change for no reason in particular. And it is those changes that I am going to focus on. Starting this week, I will be keeping track of 3 different lists and noting the changes in those lists and the reasoning behind those changes. I'll follow the mock draft of Don Banks of SI.com, the mock draft of Todd McShay of Scouts, Inc. and Mel Kiper's Big Board. When changes to the lists are made I will try and point out the reasoning and whether or not it makes any sense or is just media hype. The purpose of this is to prove that hype and media contribute more to the changes in mock drafts than fact and measurables. Hopefully through this "study" my suspicions will be confirmed.
Also, before I go any further, I want to openly declare my love for DE out of Miami, Calais Campbell. He's 6'8", 280lbs, should run the 40 in the 4.6s and is raw as hell. Mario Williams was 6'7", 290lbs and ran a 4.66 40. If Campbell gets in that speed range, he'll go top ten. I want the Pats to take him so badly that I might start a donation jar or petition or something. Campbell is a freak. Go get him.
Anyhoo, here goes nothing.
Don Banks Mock Draft
1 DE Chris Long Virginia Sr. 6-3 266
For the time being at least, I've talked myself out of the notion that Bill Parcells will invest No. 1 overall money in a defensive tackle who may not be a great fit for the 3-4 defense that Miami eventually wants to transition to. So LSU's Glenn Dorsey is out of my top spot and Long is in. Howie Long's boy is the kind of high-intensity player Parcells loves, and you can at least defend the pick in terms of dollars, since pass rushers get paid the big bucks in the NFL. The Dolphins will obviously entertain trade offers for the No. 1 slot -- if there are any -- and Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan is the other viable candidate if Miami isn't sold on second-year QB John Beck.
2 OT Jake Long Michigan Sr. 6-7 309
The Rams took a defensive tackle in Adam Carriker with their first rounder last year, so they likely won't take Dorsey. They re-signed Marc Bulger to a long-term deal, so they can't take Ryan. They have Steven Jackson in the backfield, so running back Darren McFadden makes no sense. That means either shop the pick or take the other Long, who would immediately upgrade the Rams' offensive line, which was a source of constant concern in their disappointing 2007 season.
3 QB Matt Ryan Boston College Sr. 6-5 221
Ryan is on the rise in these, the pre-NFL Combine days, and come draft weekend the Falcons may feel fortunate if he's still hanging around when their pick arrives. If he is, he's a no-brainer for a franchise that had little hope at the game's most pivotal position last season. Should Ryan be gone, Dorsey, Jake Long or McFadden all would fill a need. In other words, the Falcons, if they win that coin flip with Oakland for the No. 3 spot, have at least four quality options to choose from.
4 DT Glenn Dorsey LSU Sr. 6-1 310
The Raiders could go a lot of different ways, including trying to shop the No. 4 pick to anyone interested in McFadden (Dallas, we're looking in your direction), taking McFadden themselves or filling the void at defensive tackle created by Warren Sapp's retirement. If they go for the latter option, it should come down to whether they like Dorsey more than they like USC defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis, who had a strong week at the Senior Bowl and has risen to a top-five grade in the eyes of many scouts.
5 OT Ryan Clady Boise St. Jr. 6-6 317
This is strictly a need pick for the Chiefs, whose glaring inefficiency at offensive line last season was apparent from Week 1 on. We had them taking Michigan tackle Jake Long in our first mock, but he's off our board this time. This is actually too high to take Clady, the second-best tackle in the draft, so Kansas City would be wise to trade down into the No. 8-12 range and try to get him there. Anyone coveting McFadden would be the Chiefs' natural trade partner.
6 RB Darren McFadden Arkansas Jr. 6-2 212
With Thomas Jones on hand, New York isn't really in need of a No. 1 rusher, but McFadden may be too tempting to pass up given that some believe he's the closest thing to Adrian Peterson in this year's draft. USC's Ellis and Ohio State defensive end-outside linebacker Vernon Gholston are two other sensible options for the Jets.
7 DE Vernon Gholston Ohio St. Jr. 6-4 255
Conventional wisdom says the Patriots use this pick to find Asante Samuel's replacement once their No. 1 cornerback leaves via free agency. But New England might see restricted free agent Randall Gay as Samuel's successor, and thus could use this pick to select Gholston, a pass-rushing talent who projects to an outside rush linebacker in a 3-4 defense. The Patriots need inside linebackers more than outside linebackers, but Mike Vrabel could always move back inside to make room for Gholston, and there also a chance that outside linebacker Rosevelt Colvin won't return.
* From San Francisco
8 CB Leodis McKelvin Troy Sr. 5-11 186
With No. 8 now considered too high for Louisville quarterback Brian Brohm, the Ravens could address their need at cornerback, where Samari Rolle and Chris McAllister aren't what they once were. McKelvin is the top-ranked corner, but Baltimore could also find Boise State offensive left tackle Ryan Clady to be a fit if the No. 5 Chiefs pass him up.
9 DT Sedrick Ellis USC Sr. 6-1 308
The Bengals' top need would dovetail perfectly with the best available talent remaining on the board if Ellis is still around. Ellis is the kind of explosive and athletic play-making presence that the Bengals desperately need in their interior defensive line. His good work at the Senior Bowl shot him up into top-four territory on some draft boards, but for the time being we still have him rated below Dorsey among defensive tackles.
10 CB Mike Jenkins South Florida Sr. 6-0 200
With Jason David proving to be more of a nickelback than a starter, and Mike McKenzie suffering a late-season ACL injury, the Saints are desperate for help at cornerback in this draft. Jenkins gets a solid first-round grade, as does Kansas cornerback Aqib Talib. Both should be there for the choosing at No. 10 for the Saints.
11 WR/PR DeSean Jackson Cal Jr. 6-0 179
We're sticking with Jackson for the Bills, even though the other projected first-round receivers -- Malcolm Kelly of Oklahoma, Mario Manningham of Michigan and Limas Sweed of Texas -- all have their strengths. Jackson isn't thought to be as polished a receiver, but he's the best vertical threat with the biggest upside.
12 OT Chris Williams Vanderbilt Sr. 6-5 318
With the retirement of Matt Lepsis, finding a replacement at offensive tackle rises to the top of the Broncos' need list. If Clady is gone, Denver could easily shift its focus to Williams, who has great size and NFL-ready footwork.
13 DE Phillip Merling Clemson Jr. 6-4 275
The Panthers have a number of needs that fit well with their draft slot. They could address their likely vacancy at offensive tackle -- where Travelle Wharton is expected to depart via free agency -- by taking Pitt's Jeff Otah, or give Steve Smith some help by selecting a receiver such as Kelly or Manningham. But Merling is a junior prospect who has been gaining momentum in recent weeks, and Carolina needs youth and more impact in its pass rush.
14 QB Brian Brohm Louisville Sr. 6-3 225
Opinion varies greatly on whether the Bears will go with a quarterback in the first round, and Brohm doesn't currently carry a first-round grade on every draft board. But the Bears can't go through another status quo year at quarterback, and the free-agent pickings are pretty slim. Unless the Bears have a strong conviction about a passer in the second round, we're giving them Brohm over an offensive tackle like Otah or a defensive tackle like North Carolina's Kentwan Balmer.
15 CB Aqib Talib Kansas Jr. 6-2 201
The Lions need an upgrade in the secondary and Talib is a proven play-maker who has prototypical NFL size for a cornerback and can also be a situational receiver on offense. The other area of need that makes sense here is offensive tackle, where Otah and USC's Sam Baker remain possibilities.
16 RB Rashard Mendenhall Illinois Jr. 6-2 203
The Cardinals are in a significant cap crunch this offseason and one of the byproducts of that situation is that Edgerrin James' return for a third season in the desert is not guaranteed. Even if James is back, don't rule out Mendenhall, who some believe will be a better NFL back than the flashier Darren McFadden.
17 DE Derrick Harvey Florida Jr. 6-4 250
With this week's news that 2004 first-round defensive end Kenechi Udeze is battling leukemia, the Vikings have even more motivation to be thinking of improving their pass rush in this year's first round. Minnesota should have its choice between Harvey and 6-foot-8 Miami junior defensive end Calais Campbell.
18 RB Jonathan Stewart Oregon Jr. 5-11 233
We could see the Texans taking Miami safety Kenny Phillips as well, but Stewart is a big, powerful runner who gives Houston its long-term starter in the backfield once the stop-gap Ahman Green era is over.
19 S Kenny Phillips Miami (Fla.) Jr. 6-2 203
The Eagles could make Donovan McNabb happy by taking their highest-rated receiver here -- Manningham, Kelly or Sweed -- but that's rarely the Philly way. A defensive end like Campbell or choosing Phillips, the eventual replacement for 34-year-old free safety Brian Dawkins, is more likely.
20 WR Mario Manningham Michigan Jr. 6-0 188
The Bucs offensive line could get their first-round attention, but given head coach Jon Gruden's tendency to fall in love with offensive play-makers, Manningham or Oklahoma's Kelly are a more likely bet. Manningham doesn't have Kelly's prototypical NFL receiver size, but he's got a track record as a play-maker.
21 WR Malcolm Kelly Oklahoma Jr. 6-4 215
The Redskins have tried to go the small-receiver route without much success. Kelly is 6-4, 215 pounds and scouts rave about his fluid moves and the strength and reliability of his hands. If Washington doesn't go for a receiver in Kelly or Sweed, Campbell or Otah would fill first-round worthy needs.
22 RB Felix Jones Arkansas Jr. 6-0 205
If the Cowboys don't package their two No. 1's in an effort to move up and take Arkansas running back Darren McFadden, maybe they'll sit tight and settle for the Hogs' other play-making rusher. Jones would replace Julius Jones, and become the new half of the Marion Barber-Jones backfield tandem.
* From Cleveland.
23 OT Jeff Otah Pittsburgh Sr. 6-5 339
The Steelers have needs all along the offensive line, and Otah, who played collegiately at Heinz Field, is a good value pick who they are very familiar with. Though he's 6-5 and 339 pounds, Otah is both nimble and athletic and scouts believe he'll continue to improve early on in his NFL career.
24 WR Limas Sweed Texas Sr. 6-4 219
Sweed will likely end the run of first-round receivers at four, and we can't resist the notion of reuniting him with his former Longhorns quarterback, Vince Young. Sweed reaggravated a wrist injury at the Senior Bowl and that bears monitoring, but given the Titans' need for receiving options, he's too good to pass up.
25 TE Fred Davis USC Sr. 6-4 234
The Seahawks would love to set themselves up for the post-Shaun Alexander era with this pick, but McFadden, Mendenhall, Stewart and Jones are all gone, so Seattle must address other areas of need. Davis is the only first-round tight end in the draft, and he'll give the Seahawks passing game a threat in the deep middle the way Jerramy Stevens once did.
26 DE Calais Campbell Miami (Fla.) Jr. 6-8 279
The Jaguars' pass rush needs help at right end, where Bobby McCray and Reggie Hayward are far from dominating. If Campbell slips this far into the first round, Jacksonville should roll the dice on the 6-8, 279-pound junior who gets good marks in both run defense and the pass rush. If the Jags are thinking receiver, LSU's Early Doucet and Indiana's James Hardy are the likely candidates.
27 DT Kentwan Balmer North Carolina Sr. 6-4 297
The Chargers can go a lot of different directions, but Balmer is an on-the-rise talent who's rated in the top half of the first round by some, and he'd give San Diego an eventual replacement for nose tackle Jamal Williams, who just completed his 10th NFL season.
28 CB Dominique-Rodgers Cromartie Tenn. State Sr. 6-2 181
The Cowboys need someone solid opposite cornerback Terence Newman, and the likes of Anthony Henry and Jacques Reeves really isn't getting it done. Rodgers-Cromartie had a great Senior Bowl showing despite his small-school label, and the success of his cousin, San Diego's Antonio Cromartie, also adds to the first-round buzz he has generated in recent weeks.
29 OLB Keith Rivers USC Sr. 6-3 236
The 49ers could be tempted by LSU receiver Early Doucet, USC offensive tackle Sam Baker or Boston College offensive tackle Gosder Cherilus, all of whom would fill huge needs. But Rivers is likely to be the highest-rated player left on their board, and outside linebacker is another need if they don't get into the Lance Briggs sweepstakes.
* From Indianapolis
30 OT Gosder Cherilus Boston College Sr. 6-7 312
The Packers could use an upgrade at offensive tackle, where eight-year veteran Chad Clifton had some late-season injury issues. Cherilus is a newcomer to the first-round projection game, and has risen thanks to a strong week of work at the Senior Bowl. He's probably a right tackle in the NFL, and that's Mark Tauscher's spot in Green Bay, but the Packers need some youth at tackle.
31 Pick forfeited -- -- -- -- --
The Patriots lost this pick as their penalty for the Week 1 Spygate episode.
32 CB Brandon Flowers Virginia Tech Jr. 5-11 192
The Giants top need is at outside linebacker, where Kawika Mitchell could leave in free agency, and where Mathias Kiwanuka has yet to prove he can handle the switch from defensive end. New York hopes Rivers lingers, but if he doesn't, getting a cornerback to replace Sam Madison or a safety (N.C. State's DaJuan Morgan) to take over if Gibril Wilson signs elsewhere makes sense.
Todd McShay Mock Draft
1. Miami Dolphins -- Matt Ryan, QB, Boston College
Record: 1-15 | Needs: OT, DL, ILB, CB, QB
Previous mock selection: Glenn Dorsey, DT, LSU
Assuming for our purposes that the Dolphins are unable to trade down, they will have a difficult decision to make between Ryan, DE Chris Long, OT Jake Long and DT Glenn Dorsey. Either of the Longs makes sense, considering offensive tackle and defensive line are two of the team's biggest needs. Dorsey is considered by many to be the No. 2 player in this year's class, but he's not an ideal fit for a 3-4 defensive scheme and it doesn't make financial sense to spend No. 1-type money on a lineman who will be asked to take up space. That's why Ryan makes a lot of sense.
At the end of the day, it will come down to Bill Parcells' opinion of current Miami QB John Beck, whom the former Dolphins regime drafted in the second round last year. If Parcells thinks he can win with Beck, Jake Long would be the next best option, followed by Chris Long, then Dorsey. If not, Ryan should be the selection. He has all the physical tools of a franchise quarterback and, most importantly, he possesses rare intangibles.
2. St. Louis Rams -- Chris Long, DE, Virginia
Record: 3-13 | Needs: DE, G/OT, CB, OLB, WR
Previous mock selection: Same
The season-ending injury to perennial Pro Bowl tackle Orlando Pace and the Rams' overall poor play along the offensive line in 2007-08 make Jake Long a possibility with this pick. But assuming Pace returns to form, the Rams have a much bigger need along the interior of their offensive line, and tackle can be addressed in free agency or in later rounds of the draft.
Don't be surprised, then, if St. Louis goes with the other Long at No. 2. Chris is not a prototypical edge rusher, but he is a dominant playmaker with rare versatility and a motor that never quits. The Rams could solidify their defensive line for years to come by teaming him with last year's first-round selection, DT Adam Carriker.
3. Atlanta Falcons** -- Darren McFadden*, RB, Arkansas
Record: 4-12 | Needs: QB, OT, DT, RB, S
Previous mock selection: Matt Ryan, QB, Boston College
Ryan should be the Falcons' selection if he is available, but if he is not, Atlanta will have to make a difficult decision among McFadden, Dorsey and Jake Long. The team has needs at all three positions, so this would be tough choice. McFadden is the top prospect on most teams' draft boards, though, so it is easy to envision this scenario playing out. McFadden could provide the type of offensive boost for the Falcons that Adrian Peterson gave the Vikings last season. That type of potential is tough to pass up.
4. Oakland Raiders** -- Glenn Dorsey, DT, LSU
Record: 4-12 | Needs: OT, DT, WR, DE, RB
Previous mock selection: Darren McFadden*, RB, Arkansas
The Raiders are financially strapped and will not want to dish out top-five money one year after selecting QB JaMarcus Russell with the top overall pick. If McFadden still is on the board, don't count out a blockbuster trade by owner Al Davis, since Cowboys owner and Arkansas alum Jerry Jones already has made his interest known. If Oakland is stuck here with McFadden gone, it will need to choose between Dorsey and Jake Long. While Long is worth the pick, Dorsey is the higher-rated player. He could provide the type of interior disruption the Raiders' defense has been lacking and fill in nicely for Warren Sapp, who announced his retirement following the 2007 season.
5. Kansas City Chiefs** -- Jake Long, OT, Michigan
Record: 4-12 | Needs: OT, DE, C, WR, CB
Previous mock selection: Same
Quarterback still is a question mark, but the Chiefs' No. 1 priority this offseason should be solidifying their offensive front. Long is unquestionably the most dominant offensive lineman in the 2008 class and could help Kansas City achieve its goal in a hurry. He has the versatility to play either right or left tackle, and his combination of size, technique, athletic ability and a mean streak would improve the Chiefs' line almost immediately.
6. New York Jets -- Vernon Gholston*, DE, Ohio State
Record: 4-12 | Needs: WR, NT, OLB, ILB, G
Projected pick: Same
This could be a bit of a reach for Gholston, who flashes top-10 talent in some games (three sacks against Michigan this season) but disappears in too many others. However, don't be surprised if he works his way into the top 10 simply because this year's crop of elite edge rushers does not meet the level of demand. That said, Gholston is one of the premier pass-rushing prospects in the 2008 class, and he would be the right fit as a rush linebacker in the Jets' 3-4 scheme.
7. N.E. Patriots (from 5-11 San Francisco) -- Leodis McKelvin, CB, Troy
Record: 18-1 | Needs: ILB, CB, OLB, OL depth
Previous mock selection: Mike Jenkins, CB, South Florida
The Patriots would like to inject some youth at inside linebacker, but there isn't a player worth selecting this high, with USC's Rey Maualuga and Ohio State's James Laurinaitis both returning to school in the fall. The next priority is to find a replacement for Asante Samuel, a free agent who can't be franchised for a second consecutive year. McKelvin currently is the top-rated cornerback in a 2008 crop that is deep but lacks elite talent atop the board. As always, look for the Patriots to shop this pick heavily.
8. Baltimore Ravens -- Sedrick Ellis, DT, USC
Record: 5-11 | Needs: CB, QB, OLB, LOT, DT
Previous mock selection: Brian Brohm, QB, Louisville
Baltimore would like to use this pick to put an end to a seemingly endless pursuit for a franchise quarterback. Unfortunately, there isn't one worth selecting here with Ryan off the board. Instead, the Ravens could go with the best value on the board (Ellis) or fill a hole at either cornerback (Mike Jenkins) or left tackle (Ryan Clady). Knowing the Ravens' draft-day discipline, Ellis will be the pick in this scenario.
9. Cincinnati Bengals -- Derrick Harvey*, DE, Florida
Record: 7-9 | Needs: DT, LB, OT, DE, TE
Previous mock selection: Sedrick Ellis, DT, USC
The Bengals have a much bigger need for interior help, but if Dorsey and Ellis are gone, there isn't a defensive tackle worth drafting at No. 9. Harvey is a bit of a reach here, but coach Marvin Lewis' defense is starving for potential playmakers, and Harvey possesses the pass-rushing skills and frame to develop into an impact starter in the NFL.
10. New Orleans Saints -- Mike Jenkins, CB, South Florida
Record: 7-9 | Needs: CB, MLB, DT, OLB, TE
Previous mock selection: Kentwan Balmer, DT, North Carolina
Cornerback and linebacker are the Saints' biggest areas of need, and Jenkins is the best athlete available at those positions. His combination of size, speed and athleticism is outstanding, and his recognition skills continue to improve each season. Jenkins also brings versatility to the table, since he can play some safety and chip in on returns. If New Orleans uses this pick on a corner, it should find much better value at linebacker early in Round 2.
11. Buffalo Bills -- Malcolm Kelly*, WR, Oklahoma
Record: 7-9 | Needs: WR, CB, TE, LB, DT
Previous mock selection: DeSean Jackson*, WR, California
Kelly is the type of big receiver the Bills need as a complement to current wideout Lee Evans. Kelly is unusually fluid for a bigger wideout and he might have the strongest hands of any player in the 2008 draft. However, Jackson could join forces with RB Marshawn Lynch to give Buffalo one of the most exciting young offensive skill groups in the NFL.
12. Denver Broncos -- Ryan Clady*, OT, Boise State
Record: 7-9 | Needs: OT, DT, S, MLB, G
Previous mock selection: Same
Clady still is improving his strength, but he possesses impressive feet to go along with his enormous wingspan and huge frame. He would be an ideal fit in Denver's famed zone-blocking scheme and give a boost to the Broncos' running game.
13. Carolina Panthers -- Chris Williams, OT, Vanderbilt
Record: 7-9 | Needs: QB, DE, OT, WR, OLB
Previous mock selection: Calais Campbell*, DE, Miami
Instead of drafting a young signal-caller who will need time to develop, look for the Panthers to bring in veteran competition for current QB Matt Moore, who showed some positive signs late in the season. Drafting a defensive end like Campbell to fill a need is a possibility, but don't be surprised if the team looks to fill a hole at offensive tackle, where Travelle Wharton and Jordan Gross are set to become free agents.
14. Chicago Bears -- Brian Brohm, QB, Louisville
Record: 7-9 | Needs: QB, LOT, DT, G, RB
Previous mock selection: Andre' Woodson, QB, Kentucky
The Bears will have a tough decision to make if Brohm still is available at No. 14. There has been a lot of talk about the Bears going in a different direction with this pick, including offensive and defensive tackle. And while that makes a lot of sense, I still wouldn't rule out Brohm just yet. His stock is likely to soar between now and April's draft because he should impress scouts with his overall passing efficiency and football intelligence during the combine and individual workouts.
15. Detroit Lions -- Aqib Talib*, CB, Kansas
Record: 7-9 | Needs: ROT, G, CB, S, DE
Projected pick: Same
The Lions will be selecting outside of the top 10 for the first time since 2001, and now the trick is to find quality players this far down the line. The Lions' secondary is undermanned and would welcome the services of Talib, who is a versatile, fluid athlete with excellent size and ball skills. His elite athleticism was on display when returned an interception 100 yards for a touchdown this season, and he also saw some snaps on offense.
16. Arizona Cardinals -- Rashard Mendenhall*, RB, Illinois
Record: 8-8 | Needs: CB, OLB, TE, RB, DE
Previous mock selection: Jonathan Stewart*, RB, Oregon
The Cardinals have more pressing needs on the other side of the ball -- defensive tackle and cornerback -- but there isn't an available player at those positions who is as valuable as Mendenhall. He has the size, burst and versatility to eventually develop into an every-down starter. In the meantime, Mendenhall and Edgerrin James would make a heck of a 1-2 punch for the next year or two.
17. Minnesota Vikings -- DeSean Jackson*, WR/RS, California
Record: 8-8 | Needs: DE, WR, S, QB, TE
Previous mock selection: Derrick Harvey*, DE, Florida
Believe it or not, Minnesota still is in the market for help at wide receiver and defensive end, despite investing first- or second-round picks in the past four drafts on WRs Troy Williamson (2005) and Sidney Rice (2007), and DEs Kenechi Udeze (2004) and Erasmus James (2005). Jackson still has room to improve as a route runner, and he must get stronger in order to endure a grueling 16-game NFL schedule, but his home run ability after the catch, on vertical routes and on punt returns will be tempting for teams drafting in the top 20 overall.
18. Houston Texans -- Jonathan Stewart*, RB, Oregon
Record: 8-8 | Needs: CB, RB, WR, S, LOT, G
Previous mock selection: Kenny Phillips*, S, Miami
The Texans need a featured back to go along with QB Matt Schaub and WR Andre Johnson, and Stewart has the bulk, burst and versatility to quickly fill that role. He also could offer a boost in the kickoff return game.
19. Philadelphia Eagles -- Calais Campbell*, DE, Miami
Record: 8-8 | Needs: WR, TE, DE, OT/G, S, LB
Previous mock selection: Malcolm Kelly*, WR, Oklahoma
Philadelphia OTs Jon Runyan and William Thomas aren't getting any younger, so Pittsburgh OT Jeff Otah is a possibility here. The Eagles also are in search of a home run threat at wide receiver, so don't count out Michigan's Mario Manningham. However, there aren't that many 6-foot-8, 280-pound defensive ends with Campbell's athleticism coming out of the college ranks these days, so don't be surprised if the Eagles take a flyer on this unpolished but supremely talented end.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- Mario Manningham*, WR, Michigan
Record: 9-7 | Needs: WR, OT, OLB, CB, QB
Previous mock selection: Sam Baker, OT, USC
Coach John Gruden will be pressing general manager Bruce Allen for a young playmaker at wide receiver, and Allen knows Manningham is capable of special things in the NFL. If Manningham gets with a coach like Gruden at the next level, he could emerge as the most productive wideout from a very talented 2008 class.
21. Washington Redskins -- Phillip Merling*, DE, Clemson
Record: 9-7 | Needs: WR, DE, S, OT, CB
Previous mock selection: Limas Sweed, WR, Texas
Sweed is a possibility here since wide receiver is on the short list of big needs for the Redskins, but Merling is a fast-rising junior prospect who is shooting up the draft boards of many NFL teams. The more we study film of him, the more we like his combination of size (6-4, 275), power and agility, and his ability to get into opposing backfields. Merling has the tools to become an impact starter in the next couple of seasons and would fill an area of need for Washington.
22. Dallas Cowboys (from 10-6 Cleveland) -- Sam Baker, OT, USC
Record: 13-3 | Needs: CB, WR, OT, RB, ILB
Previous mock selection: Mario Manningham*, WR, Michigan
Assuming owner Jerry Jones doesn't package picks to trade up, expect Dallas to use its two picks to address needs at corner, receiver, offensive tackle and possibly running back. Baker's stock is dropping after an injury-plagued senior season and a mediocre showing at the Senior Bowl, but he possesses the athleticism and technique to surprise a lot of people at the next level.
23. Pittsburgh Steelers -- Jeff Otah, OT, Pittsburgh
Record: 10-6 | Needs: OT, C, DE (3-4), G, RB
Previous mock selection: Same
The Steelers could use two of their first three picks on offensive linemen. They have bigger holes to fill inside, but Otah is far and away the best lineman available in this scenario. Interior help is available for a good value in later rounds (Oregon State G Roy Schuening, and centers Mike Pollak of Arizona State and John Sullivan of Notre Dame).
24. Tennessee Titans -- Limas Sweed, WR, Texas
Record: 10-6 | Needs: WR, CB, TE, WR, OL
Previous mock selection: Early Doucet, WR, LSU
The Titans need to draft a legitimate weapon for QB Vince Young to target in the passing attack, and who would be better than Young's former college teammate? Sweed could slip a bit due to a wrist injury that cut his senior season short and was re-aggravated at the Senior Bowl. However, when Sweed is healthy, he is arguably the most physically gifted receiver in this year's class. The 6-4, 217-pounder is worth the risk, in my opinion.
25. Seattle Seahawks -- Kentwan Balmer, DT, North Carolina
Record: 10-6 | Needs: ROT, DT, RB, TE, G
Previous mock selection: Rashard Mendenhall*, RB, Illinois
It is unlikely current Seattle starting RB Shaun Alexander will ever return to his 2005 MVP form, and backup Maurice Morris has proved to be at his best when limited to a complementary role. However, with McFadden, Stewart and Mendenhall all off the board, look for the Seahawks to go in a different direction here. Balmer is a fast-rising prospect with very good size, power and quickness. He would be a welcome addition to Seattle's thin interior defensive line.
26. Jacksonville Jaguars -- Early Doucet, WR, LSU
Record: 11-5 | Needs: WR, DE, SS, CB
Previous mock selection: Quentin Groves, DE, Auburn
The Jaguars should use this pick on the best available receiver or pass-rusher. Groves will be a possibility if he checks out physically at the combine. Doucet is another solid choice this late in the first round, however. While he is unlikely to emerge as anything more than a No. 2 receiver in the NFL, Doucet possesses the quickness and run-after-catch ability to complement Jacksonville's group of bigger receivers.
27. San Diego Chargers -- Gosder Cherilus, OT, Boston College
Record: 11-5 | Needs: RG/ROT, NT, FB, RB
Previous mock selection: Dan Connor, MLB, Penn State
The Chargers can select the best available athlete if they want, but the right side of their offensive line could use an upgrade, and Cherilus projects as a solid starting right tackle in the NFL. Cherilus' stock is on the rise following his impressive showing at the Senior Bowl.
28. Dallas Cowboys -- Felix Jones*, RB, Arkansas
Record: 13-3 | Needs: CB, WR, OT, ILB, RB
Previous mock selection: Leodis McKelvin, CB, Troy
If owner Jerry Jones can't strike a deal for McFadden, he could settle for Arkansas' other first-round running back prospect. Felix Jones is a speedster who could complement current Dallas RB Marion Barber well and provide a home run threat in the return game.
29. S.F. 49ers (from 13-3 Indianapolis) -- James Hardy*, WR, Indiana
Record: 5-11 | Needs: WR, OT, OLB, DE, QB
Previous mock selection: Same
San Francisco needs a playmaker at wide receiver to take the attention away from TE Vernon Davis and pressure off QB Alex Smith. Hardy comes with some baggage and he needs some polishing, but no receiver in this class possesses a more imposing combination of size and natural athleticism.
30. Green Bay Packers -- Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB, Tenn. St.
Record: 13-3 | Needs: CB, OT, S, TE, PT
Previous mock selection: Fred Davis, TE, USC
Packers QB Brett Favre certainly would welcome the addition of a tight end like Davis, who can stretch the seam and generate yards after the catch. However, the team has a more pressing need in the defensive secondary, and Rodgers-Cromartie is one of the fastest-rising prospects in the 2008 class right now. The small-school product proved capable of playing with the big boys at the Senior Bowl, where he demonstrated outstanding versatility and athleticism playing both free safety and cornerback throughout the week.
31. N.E. Patriots -- Pick forfeited
Record: 16-0 | Needs: ILB, CB, OLB, OL depth
Previous mock selection: Same
The Patriots lost this pick as part of the penalty handed down for illegally taping Jets coaches from the sideline in Week 1.
32. New York Giants -- Keith Rivers, OLB, USC
Record: 10-6 | Needs: OLB, CB, S, OT, DT
Previous mock selection: Same
The Giants are in need of an immediate and legitimate upgrade at linebacker, and Rivers is instinctive and athletic enough to contribute immediately on the weak side. They also could use a quick, explosive back who would complement current Giants power back Brandon Jacobs, so keep an eye on this selection.
Mel Kiper Big Board
1. *Darren McFadden, RB, Arkansas (6-foot-1, 208) | Previous: Same
The reasons for his dynamic performances throughout his career are excellent vision, very good balance, game-breaking speed and a passion for the game.
2. Glenn Dorsey, DT, LSU (6-2, 292) | Previous: Same
Disruptive force along the interior. If there is one non-skill position player fans should watch, Dorsey is the one, because despite constant double-teams, he is always making plays or opening up space for his teammates.
3. Jake Long, OT, Michigan (6-6, 320) | Previous: Same
Top-drawer left or right tackle prospect.
4. Chris Long, DE, Virginia (6-4, 282) | Previous: Same
A 3-4 defensive end with great bloodlines who understands leverage and uses his hands as well as any D-lineman in the country.
5. Sedrick Ellis, DT, USC (6-1, 297) | Previous: Same
Tampa Bay Bucs-style DT with superior quickness and a nonstop motor.
6. Matt Ryan, QB, Boston College (6-4, 223) | Previous: Same
He has the size and arm to wow the NFL brass during testing.
7. *Aqib Talib, CB, Kansas (6-1, 193) | Previous: Same
A game-changing cover corner who had 11 interceptions the past two seasons. Talib has outstanding recovery speed and tremendous leaping ability. He also showed his versatility by catching eight passes (four for touchdowns) on offense.
8. *Vernon Gholston, DE, Ohio St. (6-3, 262) | Previous: Same
He took his play to a new level in 2007, showcasing the explosiveness to overpower offensive tackles at the point of attack. Gholston also has excellent closing speed, as evidenced by the 14 sacks he registered. He also has the versatility to play with his hand off the ground.
9. *Ryan Clady, OT, Boise State (6-5, 320) | Previous: Same
An excellent left tackle prospect with athletic ability and solid technique that will make him a great blindside protector in the NFL.
10. *Jonathan Stewart, RB, Oregon (5-10, 233) | Previous: Same
A strong and athletic, big running back who displays tremendous patience with the way he sets up his blocks.
11. *Phillip Merling, DE, Clemson (6-4½, 272) | Previous: Same
An underrated standout, Merling might not be as flashy as former teammate Gaines Adams (the fourth pick in last year's draft), but you can make the argument that Merling is a more complete player.
12. Kentwan Balmer, DT, North Carolina (6-4, 298) | Previous: 14
Unbelievably talented player who had a breakout season in 2007.
13. Leodis McKelvin, CB, Troy (5-10½, 185) | Previous: Same
Not only a very good cover man with superior recovery ability (runs in the 4.38 range) and the aggressiveness to get the job done in run support, McKelvin has made a name for himself as the top return man in the entire nation. He's also stood out this season in games against the likes of Arkansas, Florida, Oklahoma State and Georgia. With his speed and versatility, McKelvin will bring a great deal of value to a football team.
14. Chris Williams, OT, Vanderbilt (6-5½, 318) | Previous: 12
Top-drawer talent, possessing superior athleticism and good feet to neutralize outside pass-rushers.
15. *Felix Jones, RB, Arkansas (5-11, 202) | Previous: Same
Tremendously explosive and versatile, Jones gained a whopping 8.7 yards per carry this season, while also excelling as a kickoff returner, gaining nearly 30 yards per return.
16. *Calais Campbell, DE, Miami (6-7, 280) | Previous: 17
Physically imposing with his height and wingspan, Campbell is able to beat offensive tackles with either speed or power. He does a good job of varying his pass rush moves, while also proving to be solid against the run.
17. Jeff Otah, OT, Pittsburgh (6-5, 339) | Previous: 18
Light on his feet for a huge bookend, Otah is still developing. He played only one year in high school and two at the junior college level. He also played basketball in junior college and is a tremendous athlete. His upside and potential are going to excite offensive line coaches in the NFL.
18. Mike Jenkins, CB, South Florida (5-11½, 202) | Previous: 19
He has excellent recovery speed and the toughness you look for in a cornerback. His size allows him to match up with an opponent's No. 1 wide receiver.
19. *Chilo Rachal, OG, USC (6-6¼, 339) | Previous: 20
Tremendous size and plays with a defensive mentality you like to see. Rachal can match the speed and power of defensive ends he faces which is why he has so much upside at the next level.
20. *Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Illinois (5-10, 224) | Previous: 21
Authoritative runner with a major league burst through the hole. Mendenhall's hard-charging style makes him difficult to get to the ground.
21. Fred Davis, USC (6-4, 253) | Previous: 22
Productive, consistent and multitalented. He's caught five or more passes in eight of 13 games while also doing a very capable job as an inline blocker. Davis stretches the deep middle of the field with big plays while bringing excellent physical and athletic skills to the tight end spot.
22. *Malcolm Kelly, WR, Oklahoma (6-3½, 219) | Previous: 23
He has the combination of size and speed that NFL teams covet, plus great hands and is a tremendous competitor.
23. Sam Baker, OT, USC (6-4½, 310) | Previous: 16
Exceptional pass-blocker with superb technique.
24. *DeSean Jackson, WR, California (5-11, 168) | Previous: Same
Exciting wideout and returner with very good natural pass receiving skills. Jackson has excellent speed and is a terrific open-field runner.
25. *Kenny Phillips, S, Miami (6-1½, 200) | Previous: Same
While he had a decent but not great season, Phillips has the skill level necessary to reach high honors in the NFL. He has excellent range and good ball skills, and he is solid in run support. Also keep in mind that safeties are in high demand in the NFL these days, and Phillips is clearly the top safety in this year's draft.