If you love the NFL, this is your reality television. This is the football version of ‘The Bachelor.' And while all of these players will get a rose, they're not quite sure who they're getting it from.
There's not much debating who the best players in the draft are. But it's all about the area code they end up in. Surely, the Raiders will take JaMarcus Russell. Or will they? The Detroit Lions can't possibly pass on Calvin Johnson. Or can they? Will Adrian Peterson drop out of the Top 10? Could Leon Hall really slide into the late teens? And most importantly, will the Packers get Cal Golden Bear Marshawn Lynch into the green and gold?
Trades could also shake up the top of the order with a half dozen teams looking to get in position to draft Johnson. Washington wants to trade down from No. 6 and get more picks. And players like Chargers' running back Michael Turner, or disgruntled Bears' linebacker Lance Briggs, could potentially be packaged or swapped for a first-round pick. The possibilities are endless. But here's how I see things shaking out…
1. Oakland Raiders: QB JaMarcus Russell, LSU
The boys at the rumor mill are earning time-and-a-half for this stuff. Miami will release Daunte Culpepper and he'll go to Oakland, allowing them to take Calvin Johnson. Right? Wrong. The Raiders gave up 72 sacks last season. That number could actually increase with Culpepper, on the off chance he lasted that long. Oakland is supposedly also close to completing a deal for Brady Quinn. They were said to favor Matt Leinart over Vince Young last year, and Quinn is this year's Leinart. Isn't he? No. Don't believe this one for a second. Russell's combination of size, arm-strength and upside has Al Davis drooling on his jumpsuit. But expect him to take the full allotted 15 minutes to make this pick, just because he is Al Davis.
2. Detroit Lions: WR Calvin Johnson, Georgia Tech
Joe Thomas is the safe pick, but how can the Lions not take the best player in the draft? GM Matt Millen doesn't let the ghosts of Charles Rogers and Mike Williams sway him and after months of hearing that Johnson is the best player in the draft, he buys in, decides to stay right where he's at, and goes with a wide receiver for the fourth time in five years. But Johnson will be the best one yet. For at least one day, Millen seems like a really good GM. Celebrate good times, Detroit. C'mon!
3. Cleveland Browns: QB Brady Quinn, Notre Dame
Quinn is an Ohio guy and the Browns have not been shy about saying they want him. It almost makes too much sense. Despite GM Phil Savage's relationship with Russell, with the LSU signal caller heading to Oakland, Quinn becomes an easy pick. Sooners running back Adrian Peterson will be considered, even though Jamal Lewis is in the fold, but the Golden Domer gets the nod. Nothing against Quinn, but I sense the second-coming of Rick Mirer. You read it here first.
4. Tampa Bay: OT Joe Thomas, Wisconsin
They desperately wanted Johnson, but couldn't get Detroit to move down two spots to grab Thomas or DE Gaines Adams. Instead, the Bucs take the best lineman in the draft who could be a latter day Anthony Munoz, or at the very least, another Paul Gruber. For those who don't recall, Gruber was a former Badger and first-round pick by Tampa Bay in 1998. He started 183 regular season games over 12 seasons. Easily the best lineman in the draft, Thomas will anchor the Bucs' line for a decade, as well.
5. Arizona Cardinals: DE Gaines Adams, Clemson
Sexy wins out over safe. The Cards get the drafts' premier pass rusher in Adams, who's a Leonard Little look-a-like, but they pass on Penn State tackle Levi Brown, a ready-made starter who could keep Leinart off his back and open holes for Edgerrin James. This team hasn't had good luck with first round defensive lineman, but Adams seems like a can't miss prospect.
6. (trade with Washington) Miami Dolphins: DT Amobi Okoye, Louisville
Washington is looking for anyone to trade back with in an effort to stockpile picks. Miami accommodates them and picks the most intriguing defensive player in the draft. This kid played as a 16-year-old true freshman and will be a 20-year-old rookie with four years of D-1 experience. He's left scouts and GM's gushing at the Senior Bowl, the Combine, his Pro Day and in interviews. On the chance Brady Quinn is still on the board, he'll be wearing a fish on his helmet. But assuming he's not, Okoye's the pick.
7. Minnesota Vikings: RB Adrian Peterson, Oklahoma
Despite Chester Taylor rushing for 1,200 yards last season, the Vikes can't pass up Peterson when he slips to this spot. They've got a glaring need at receiver, but after Johnson, none of the others -- Robert Meachem, Ted Ginn, Dwayne Bowe or Dwayne Jarrett, are worthy of this spot. LaRon Landry will be another consideration, but Coach Brad Childress goes for offense. Minnesota will be shopping this pick to see if they can trade down, obtain additional picks, and get one of the aforementioned receivers.
8. (trade with Houston) Atlanta Falcons: S LaRon Landry, LSU
The league's worst secondary (that would be Chris Crocker and Lawyer Milloy) just got an extreme makeover. Landry has Pro Bowl potential and will immediately solidify their secondary. They would've taken him at No. 10, but the Matt Schaub deal gets him in a Falcons uni two spots earlier. Landry has the look of an NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, and a regular at the Pro Bowl.
9. (trade with Miami) Washington Redskins: DT Alan Branch, Michigan
Branch's draft day stock is on the decline with both medical concerns and questions about his work ethic and motor. Perception can be reality in the NFL, but the Skins don't bite. Instead, they get the draft's top run-stuffer who had been earlier projected as a top-five pick. The tape doesn't lie. Branch is a 6-foot-6, 330-pound monster who dominated in the Big 10. He'll do it again in the NFL.
10. (trade with Atlanta) Houston Texans: OT Levi Brown, Penn State
There's a chance of back-to-back Wolverines getting drafted, but the Texans take a pass on Michigan cornerback Leon Hall and go for pass protection. Brown's stock is also dipping in some circles, but he's an NFL-ready, 328-pound man mountain who will blow open holes for Ahman Green in the running game and keep the jersey of their newly acquired QB clean.
11. San Francisco 49ers: DL Adam Carriker, Nebraska
A versatile player on the rise who was the defensive star of the Senior Bowl, Carriker will fortify the Niners' front four at 6-foot-6, 300 pounds. A DE throughout his college career, he has the potential to play inside when needed and is equally adept in a 4-3 defense or a 3-4, which San Francisco is implementing this season.
12. Buffalo Bills: ILB Patrick Lewis, Ole Miss
They‘ve got holes at running back with the loss of Willis McGahee and corner with the loss of Nate Clements, but they're down two linebackers after London Fletcher and Takeo Spikes bolted. That makes taking Willis, the best LB in the draft, an easy pick. Able to play inside or out, Willis oozes athletic ability.
13. St. Louis Rams: DE Jamaal Anderson, Arkansas
St. Louis tabs the 6-foot-6, 288-pounder at the perfect spot and shores up a porous defense. The junior had 19.5 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks last season. Some have said his numbers are a product of the Razorbacks' defensive scheme, but Anderson looks like a Richard Seymour clone. He's got loads of athletic ability (he used to play receiver) and a huge upside. He'll put up solid numbers opposite Leonard Little.
14. Carolina Panthers: TE Greg Olsen, Miami
Olsen's stock is sky high after a terrific combine and pro day. At 6-foot-6 and 254 pounds, he's got size, speed (4.51 40 at the combine) and run-after-the-catch ability. The tight end will have an increased focus under new offensive coordinator Jeff Davidson and teams will be unable to concentrate solely on Steve Smith. Green Bay may have considered Olsen at No.16, but that's no longer an option.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers: CB Darrelle Revis, Pittsburgh
With Leon Hall still on the board, Pittsburgh goes for a local product they are very familiar with. Revis played both cornerback positions at Pitt, excelled in bump-and-run coverage and was physical against the run. He also ran a 4.38 at his pro day, a hundredth of a second faster than Hall, who seemed to have moved to the top of the cornerback rankings prior to the draft.
16. Green Bay Packers: RB Marshawn Lynch, California
Olsen would have made this a tough decision had he been available. But Lynch is a perfect fit for the Packers zone-blocking scheme and has excellent hands catching the ball out of the backfield. He fills the gaping hole left by the departure of Ahman Green and eliminates the finger-crossing that would go with selecting a second-tier runner later in the draft. Lynch's back passed the test for the Packers' medical staff and any concerns over off-field issues have been put to rest. Hey, who hasn't been shot at in a case of mistaken identity? It's not like he was doing the shooting. And Lynch has already said that wherever he ends up, he'll move his Mom to that town with him. What's not to like about that?
17. Jacksonville Jaguars: S Reggie Nelson, Florida
A standout for the NCAA national champion Gators, Nelson has the toughness of a safety with the cover skills to play corner. Deon Grant left J-Ville for the Emerald City and Donovin Darius finished the last two seasons on IR. Nelson scorched a 4.35 40 at his recent pro day and he'll be a Day One starter for the Jags.
18. Cincinnati Bengals: CB Leon Hall, Michigan
He could've gone as high as No. 10 to the Texans or No. 15 to the Steelers, so this constitutes a major steal, with apologies to any Bengals recently arrested for stealing. Hall is the closest thing in the draft to a shutdown corner and he answered any questions about his speed when he clocked a 4.39 at his pro day.
19. Tennessee Titans: WR Ted Ginn, Jr., Ohio State
They could go for local product Robert Meachem out of Tennessee, but the lightning fast 178-pound former Buckeye is a dual threat who becomes both a dangerous downfield target for Vince Young and takes over for the suspended Pacman Jones as a return man.
20. New York Giants: OLB Lawrence Timmons, Florida State
New York released both of last season's starting outside linebackers, so Timmons would be a natural to come in and claim one of those spots. He only started one year for the Seminoles, but his athletic ability makes him the pick over Penn State's Paul Posluszny.
21. Denver Broncos: DE Jarvis Moss, Florida
With additions to their secondary, offensive backfield and at tight end, it's time to address the pass rush. Moss has drawn comparisons to another former Gator defensive playmaker: Jevon Kearse. He may need to bulk up his 250-pound frame, but he'll be a great third-down rusher and a playmaker in Jim Bates' defensive scheme.
22. Dallas Cowboys: WR Robert Meachem, Tennessee
They'll consider LSU's Dwayne Bowe, as well, but Meachem is a silky smooth 6-foot-3, 214-pounder who could be the second-best receiver in the draft behind Johnson. Safety would be another consideration, but Meachem is too talented to pass on and adds some youth to a receiving corp with Terrell Owens and Terry Glenn.
23. Kansas City Chiefs: WR Dwayne Bowe, LSU
This offense needs a serious upgrade to current starters Eddie Kennison and Sammie Parker. Overshadowed by the underclassman at his position, Bowe was JaMarcus Russell's favorite target at LSU and will be for Damon Huard. He quieted the critics by running a 4.4 40 at his pro day at 218 pounds.
24. New England Patriots: FS Brandon Meriweather, Miami
Meriweather's off-field troubles won't scare off the Pats as they get a talented player who will be the eventual successor to Rodney Harrison. His man-to-man skills and ability to play ‘nickel' back as a safety make him too good to let go, especially when they've got another pick just four spots away.
25. New York Jets: DE Anthony Spencer, Purdue
They were hoping Olsen fell this far, but Jets fans will boo the pick regardless. A bit undersized at 6-foot-3, 261 pounds, Spencer might be the best pass rusher in the draft. He's well-suited for the Jets' 3-4 scheme and could line up as an OLB when all is said and done.
26. Philadelphia Eagles: CB Aaron Ross, Texas
Philly wanted a big-play cornerback to line up opposite Andre Dyson and that's exactly what they get. Ross, the 2007 Thorpe Award winner, has great size (6-foot-1, 193 pounds) speed (4.44 40), and had 11 turnovers last year for the Longhorns.
27. New Orleans Saints: CB Chris Houston, Arkansas
The Saints secondary got absolutely torched during the playoffs. Fred Thomas is still smoldering three months later. Houston, who is quickly moving up the draft boards, puts a stop to that. He ran a blistering 4.32 at the combine, he's got a 450-pound bench press. Better yet, the bigger the game, the better he plays and he's put the clamps down on first round talents like Meachem, Bowe and Dwayne Jarrett.
28. New England Patriots: LB Paul Posluszny, Penn State
Versatile, hard-nosed and instinctive, Posluszny is a Patriot-type player who can play inside or outside. He shores up one of the few areas for New England that lacks depth and can be the heir apparent to Tedy Bruschi.
29. Baltimore Ravens: OT Joe Staley, Central Michigan
Shooting up a draft board near you, Staley is a small-school talent ready for the big time. He can step in immediately for departed right tackle Tony Pashos and be on hand if the retirement rumors surrounding left tackle Jonathon Ogden prove true.
30. Chargers: WR Dwayne Jarrett, USC
And the rich get richer. Haunted by a slow 40 time and comparisons to former USC receiver/NFL bust Mike Williams, Jarrett plummets to the bottom of the first round, much to the chagrin of the Chargers. Jarrett is another big target for quarterback Phillip Rivers, and catches the ball with one hand as easily as most receivers catch it with two. If an offense with LT and Antonio Gates wasn't scary enough, now they'll have Jarrett on the field, too.
31. Bears: OG Justin Blalock, Texas
Three of Chicago's starting five lineman are 33 or older. Blalock, who started a school-record 51 consecutive games at Texas, can play guard or tackle and gives an injection of youth and power to the interior of the Bears' aging offensive line and can eventually replace 35-year old guard, Ruben Brown. Arron Sears or Ben Grubbs are other possibilities.
32. Colts: LB Jon Beason, Miami
With Cato June gone via free agency, the Colts look to the new 'Linebacker U' (see Michael Barrow, Jessie Armstead, Ray Lewis, D.J. Williams, and Jonathan Vilma) and grab Beason, an undersized player who projects nicely into the weak-side linebacker role of their 'Tampa 2' scheme, despite running a fairly pedestrian 4.72 at his individual workout. Tennessee tackle Justin Harrell is another option. Had he still been around, they would have jumped on Jarrett.
W. Keith Roerdink
W. Keith Roerdink is a frequent contributor to PackerReport.com and Packer Report magazine. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.