VikingUpdate.com Mock Draft, Version 7.0

With the draft finally upon us, VikingUpdate.com treads the rough waters with our predictions for the first round of the 2007 NFL Draft in Version 7.0.

OVERVIEW: The teams are getting ready. The players have champagne on ice (except 19-year-old Amobi Okoye). All that’s left to do is make the picks. In the seventh incarnation of our annual mock draft, there are plenty of changes expected—including a pair of trades that change teams on three picks before the Vikings select at No. 7. The trade rumors are running rampant and the big questions being asked are how long will quarterback Brady Quinn stay on the board, who (not if) will the Redskins make a trade with at the No. 6 spot and what is the health of running back Adrian Peterson? All of these questions will be addressed by the teams as they make their way to the podium for Roger Goodell to announce their picks. See if you agree with our rationale as to who goes where and why this weekend.

Original Team's W-L and Strength of Schedule
No. Club
Win
Loss
Strength of Schedule
1. Oakland Raiders
2
14
.555
JaMarcus Russell, QB, LSUThe Raiders could take a look at wide receiver Calvin Johnson, but Al Davis has always loved the vertical game and Russell could be the lump of clay he needs to help keep what little fan interest in the Raiders remains. While dropping down is a possibility, it's an unlikely one. If, however, the Raiders pass on Russell, it could create a groundswell of activity around the next several picks, as teams might look to jump up and package multiple picks to get one of the top blue-chippers on the board. The early release of Aaron Brooks clearly indicates the Raiders are going in a different direction and it clears it up that, even if a veteran is brought in, he will enter the Raiders system on even footing with Russell and will likely get replaced before year’s end. If the rumored trade of Randy Moss comes through with the Packers for Aaron Rodgers and an exchange of low-level draft picks, the Raiders could well turn the draft on its ear by signing Johnson—arguably the best pure athlete in the draft. But, unless that happens, the Raiders are almost forced to take Russell here.
2. Detroit Lions
3
13
.523
PROJECTED TRADE: TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (from Detroit)
Calvin Johnson, WR, Georgia Tech—
Johnson is clearly the player of choice with the second pick and the Lions, who have used a ton of first-rounders on wide receivers in the lottery over the last four years, just can’t afford to take another wide receiver here—even though most people believe Johnson is the best player in this year’s draft. The Lions have the chance to move down, add a second-round pick and still get one of the two players that they likely had on top of their draft board—QB Brady Quinn or DE Gaines Adams. Far be it from us to praise Matt Millen, but if he swings this, the Bucs get the explosive playmaker Jon Gruden wants and the Lions get a blue-chipper they covet and the ability to package two consecutive second-round picks to move back into the first round if a player they covet is still on the board. Johnson won’t come cheap to the Bucs, but he looks to be worth it. The more film you watch on Johnson—not just highlight reel footage—the more imposing and impressive he becomes. He might be the best pure wide receiver to enter the draft since Randy Moss came out in 1998 and, whichever team gets him, they will expect to be a star from Day One—something he may well be able to deliver.

3. Cleveland Browns
4
12
.535
Brady Quinn, QB, Notre Dame—This pick should come down to one of two players—Quinn or RB Adrian Peterson. There are some who believe that Peterson is going to be a great pro and that Jamal Lewis is merely a rental back. That might be true, but quarterbacks that bring the franchise tag with them are rare and Quinn is an exception to several rules. He’s hard working, he’s a student of the game, he absorbs information like a sponge and, unlike just about everyone in the United States, he wants to move to Cleveland. Charlie Frye was an experiment that failed and the Browns are looking for an identity. Quinn can provide that. The Vikings and their fans should be extremely interested in following what the Browns do at No. 3 because, whether they take Quinn or Peterson, the player they don’t take will likely fall to the Vikings at No. 7. The Browns are desperately looking for a face to the franchise to energize their fans and Quinn might be just the answer that the team needs.
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
4
12
.535
PROJECTED TRADE: DETROIT LIONS (from Tampa Bay)
Gaines Adams, DE, Clemson—
There was a belief that if the Lions couldn’t swing a deal, they would take Adams at the No. 2 pick. Being able to drop two spots, add a solid draft pick and still get the player the want is a coup. Adams is a relentless pass rusher and, even though the Lions have added some help at the position in the offseason, every team in the league is looking for the pass-rushing beast that can make a difference. While some in the Lions camp might prefer OT Joe Thomas, decent offensive linemen are still available in the second or third round. By that time, what few top end pass rushers there are in this year’s draft will be long gone.

5. Arizona Cardinals 5 11 .500
Joe Thomas, OT, WisconsinDenny Green never addressed the need for offensive tackle help and it may have cost him his job. Thomas could step in and be an immediate starter at left tackle, since his primary competition is Brandan Gorin and Oliver Ross—neither of whom can be viewed as anything other than pedestrian. If Thomas can fall to this spot, he would more than fill the void left by the departure of starter Leonard Davis, who fled via free agency. The Cardinals have a new outlook and a lot of offensive weapons to build around. Thomas could become a bookend on the O-line for years and help get the most of Matt Leinart, Edgerrin James, Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald. One consideration that might need to be made is the possibility of moving him to right tackle, since Leinart is a lefty.
6. Washington Redskins 5 11 .512
PROJECTED TRADE: ATLANTA FALCONS (from Washington)
LaRon Landry, S, LSU—
This may seem like a lot to give up to get the player they covet, but there are legitimate fears that if Landry is still on the board, the Vikings will peddle the pick to someone else or take Landry themselves.. Safety has quietly become a top-end need for more than half the teams in the NFL and even teams with one proven safety want a second one to allow the studs like Roy Williams or Troy Polamalu to freelance more and make big plays. The Falcons will likely be able to pull off this trade by simply throwing in a third- or fourth-rounder because the trade-happy Redskins don’t have another pick until the fifth round and are desperate to make a move. Landry is a difference-maker and a player that fills a screaming need for Atlanta, making a trade up past the Vikings make sense. Whether or not the Falcons are the team that Washington cuts a deal with, this is almost guaranteed to be a selection made by a team other than the Redskins.
7. Minnesota Vikings 6 10
.488
Adrian Peterson, RB, Oklahoma—The Vikings could find themselves with at least four options here. If the Browns took Peterson at No. 3, it’s likely that Brady Quinn is still on the board and he would likely be the pick (if he’s still available). If both are gone, that would likely bring the Vikings’ choice down to LaRon Landry or CB Leon Hall. It’s clearly too early for the Vikings to take a wide receiver with this pick, so barring a trade down a half-dozen spots or more, that doesn’t look like a realistic possibility. Peterson’s stock continues to be on the rise and there is speculation that a team like Buffalo could try to make a run to move ahead of the Vikings (perhaps with the draft-desperate Redskins) to get Peterson. If that happens, don’t be stunned if the Vikings look to trade down. Otherwise, this is a pick that will be a positive fit for the Vikings, who need to sell their fans on the franchise. Peterson would be a nice complement to Chester Taylor and, as we’ve learned over the last couple of years, having two bell-cow running backs is never a bad thing and often a recipe for offensive success in the NFL. The recent reports that Peterson might require surgery on his shoulder or collarbone might be a big enough red flag that the Vikings won’t want to risk it, but seeing as none of his career injuries have ever been structural type knee or ankle injuries, that may not be as big a concern.
8. Atlanta Falcons (from Houston) 6 10 .504
PROJECTED TRADE: WASHINGTON REDSKINS
Amobi Okoye, DT, Louisville—
One of the big stories of the draft, Okoye has emerged as a 19-year-old with so much upside that his stock continues to grow. In light of recent revelations that the other top DT prospect—Alan Branch—has stress fractures in both legs, Okoye’s value goes even higher. The Redskins need help and can’t risk taking a player that could have a serious injury red flag. While it’s clear Okoye may need a year or two to be able to handle the beating he will take at the NFL level, he has all the earmarks of being a future superstar and, by acquiring another pick in the middle rounds, gives Washington fans something to pay attention to on draft day rather than packing their bags and waiting to make a pick until the fifth round.

9. Miami Dolphins 6 10 .543
Levi Brown, OT, Penn StateThis might be a stretch for Brown, since he may not grade out as a top-10 pick purely on athleticism. But the Dolphins struggled mightily on offense last year. L.J. Shelton has battled both injury problems and a lack of intensity. Brown could play either tackle position, which became a stronger need area when Damion McIntosh signed away to Kansas City. A speed receiver like Ted Ginn could find a landing spot here, because the Dolphins need more playmakers on offense. But with a weak crop of offensive tackles this year, the Dolphins might get more long-term value out of signing a much safer pick like Brown than taking a chance on a wide receiver who may or may not pan out.
10. Houston Texans (from Atlanta) 7 9 .457

Leon Hall, CB, Michigan—The Texans might want to go to the well at defensive end again and team up Jamaal Anderson with last year’s No. 1 overall pick, Mario Williams, but their needs in the secondary are very pronounced and, with the top two offensive tackle candidates off the board, unless the Texans trade down, they need to get a player who can make an immediate impact. Hall is the No. 1 cornerback on the board and, paired with former first-rounder Dunta Robinson, could create a formidable duo that will be needed if they ever want to supplant the Colts atop the AFC South. While this pick is by no means a lead-pipe lock, Hall would seem to make the most sense at this spot.

11. San Francisco 49ers 7 9 .500

Jamaal Anderson, DE, Arkansas—The Niners have made a bunch of big moves in the last 24 months to take their team from the absolute dregs of the league to a team that a lot of analysts are going to be giving the sleeper tag to this year. While the team might prefer to see CB Leon Hall fall to them at this spot, the defensive end position is one that needs to add some depth. Bryant Young is a graybeard at 35 and Marques Douglas is past 30 himself. Anderson could be worked into the 3-4 defense slowly at first and, by season’s end, be a full-time starter with a lot of promise for the future. A fierce defensive end, Anderson can infuse some youth into the D-line and give the Niners and their fans legitimate reasons to believe that 2007 could be a playoff season.

12. Buffalo Bills 7 9 .574
Patrick Willis, LB, Mississippi—Up until the Bills traded Takeo Spikes for Darwin Walker, we had them locked on either Amobi Okoye or Alan Branch—either of whom would appear to be a value pick at this spot. Instead, the Bills find themselves in an unenviable position. The team’s two most pressing needs are trying to replace Willis McGahee and Nate Clements. Unfortunately, it might be too early to address either of those needs with the 12th overall selection. In what is viewed as a weak middle linebacker class in 2007, Willis is clearly the best of the group. Having to replace leading tackler London Fletcher-Baker, immediate help is needed and, in this case, the need and the pick match up much better than reaching for a running back or cornerback. While it wouldn’t surprise anyone if the Bills make an attempt to trade up or trade down from this spot, if they stay here, they’ll be talkin’ about Willis. The Bills might get aggressive if Adrian Peterson makes it past the top five picks and look to trade up, but, if they stay here, Willis would fit like a glove in this defense.
13. St. Louis Rams 8 8 .465
Alan Branch, DT, Michigan—Here we go again. The Rams have identified the need for a run-stuffing tackle for the last several years and have used a couple of first-round picks in order to address that need, but guys like Jimmy Kennedy have been viewed as busts. Branch, who has the potential to go as high as No. 6 overall, would be a value pick here. Scott Linehan has shuffled the deck considerably in the offseason and Branch has the Wolverine pedigree that bodes well for the NFL. Maybe the third time trying to get a rock in the middle of the defensive front will be the charm for the Rams. There are reports that Branch has stress fractures in both legs that showed up on X-rays at the Combine. The Rams doctors will have to do a lot of homework to assure themselves that this isn’t going to be a condition that could shorten Branch’s career. If they don’t have faith that he can be healthy, Branch could fall a long way on draft day. If the Rams are convinced that Branch is too big of an injury risk at this spot, don’t be stunned if they try to trade up a couple of spots to get DE Jamaal Anderson or stay where they’re at and take Nebraska DE Adam Carriker.
14. Carolina Panthers 8 8 .473
Greg Olsen, TE, MiamiThere are more urgent needs at middle linebacker, offensive tackle and safety and, if Willis drops past St. Louis, he could easily be the selection here. But the Panthers offense hasn’t exploited the tight end position since Wesley Walls got old. With playmakers like Steve Smith and DeAngelo Williams giving the Panthers offense some punch, adding a deep middle receiver like Olsen could help Jake Delhomme return to the form that got the Panthers to the Super Bowl and made them one of the favorites to get back there in 2006. Olsen wowed scouts at the Combine with his speed and his hands and, in the tradition of Miami tight ends, should be another first-rounder who can be a difference-maker. He made himself more money than just about any other player at the Combine—moving from the end of the first round or early second round into the middle of the first round. If the Panthers think the 14th pick is too high to take a tight end, they likely will go after Florida safety Reggie Nelson with this pick.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers
8
8
.496
Lawrence Timmons, OLB, Florida StateThe Steelers are a team in transition, since it is assumed that Mike Tomlin will install his Cover-2 defense to a team that has run the 3-4 defense since 1982. While the number of linebackers that end up on the roster will likely decrease, the loss of Joey Porter will be felt throughout the defense. A true playmaker, he and Tomlin apparently didn’t see eye to eye on things and, rather than try to work out a trade for him, they opted to let him void his contract and leave. Timmons has sideline-to-sideline coverage skill and, while some may think this is a bit of a stretch to take him this early, he’s the kind of defender Tomlin will enjoy molding into a top pro.
16. Green Bay Packers 8 8 .500
Marshawn Lynch, RB, California—It’s unclear whether the Packers believed that Ahman Green would come back for another one-year deal like he signed last year, but maybe they underestimated Mike Sherman’s love for former Packers. He’s got Green and Samkon Gado down in Houston, and now the Packers are left perilously thin at running back. Whoever comes in—there is some debate that, after Adrian Peterson, if Lynch, Antonio Pittman or Kenny Irons is the No. 2 running back on team draft boards—he will be asked to step in immediately and be at minimum a time-share back early in the season and a workhorse down the stretch. Even if the Packers bring in a veteran runner, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them take a running back here, because the market value of the pick and the talent level behind Peterson are close to catching up in the middle of the round.
17. Jacksonville Jaguars 8 8 .500
Ted Ginn, WR, Ohio StateHere we go again. The Jaguars have invested a pair of first-round picks the last three years in the wide receiver position with mixed results at best. It’s hard to keep going to the well this often, but the Jags have to find a player that can be a big-play threat and show some consistency. Ginn, who some believe could go as high as No. 7 to the Vikings, is a player who can be an immediate threat as a return man—the Jags would probably like to keep Maurice Jones-Drew from risking injury returning punts and kickoffs since he looks to be their RB of the future, if not the present. It’s quite possible that Ginn will be off the board by this pick because you can’t teach speed and he has it in lethal amounts. But his foot injury that prevented him from working out at the Combine and limited his work at his Pro Day has seen his stock drop. It may not be this far, but there are certain players who slide on draft day and, with there still likely to be talented receivers available on the second or third round, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a lot of teams taking wide receiver off their first-round list of priorities. There might be an outside chance that the Packers would consider moving up ahead of the Vikings to get to the No. 6 spot to take Peterson, but that would be costly. But Packer fans could be dancing in the streets of Green Bay if the team can swing that move and complete a trade for Randy Moss, giving the offense Brett Favre, Peterson, Moss, Donald Driver and Greg Jennings. All of the sudden, the Packers would look like a playoff team.
18. Cincinnati Bengals 8 8 .535
Darrelle Revis, CB, Pittsburgh—The Bengals’ needs are clearly on defense and some believe Revis is every bit the NFL prospect at top-drafted CB Leon Hall. The Bengals used a first-round pick on a corner last year with Johnathan Joseph, so some believe they won’t hit that same position twice in a row, but with Tory James no longer a factor and Delta O’Neal looking like he’s lost all of his confidence, the Bengals need to add playmakers that can help immediately. They already have an offense in place that is capable of taking the team deep into the playoffs. Finding defensive players that can turn the tide on one of the worst pass defenses in the league will be a big help in allowing them to compete for a division title with the Ravens and Steelers.
19. Tennessee Titans 8 8 .570
Dwayne Bowe, WR, LSU—The Titans didn’t give Norm Chow his USC quarterback last year and it appears they made the right decision. But with Drew Bennett following Derrick Mason out of town, the Titans have become painfully thin at wide receiver. While the jury may still be out as to which of the remaining wideouts would be the best pro prospect—some like USC’s Dwayne Jarrett, while others are talking up South Carolina’s Sidney Rice or Tennessee’s Robert Meacham as potential picks here, Bowe has the best pro potential. He has very good strength to break press coverage, which will be essential if he is to succeed early. Having lost Bennett and Bobby Wade in the offseason, getting talent back at the position becomes a top priority and, whether Bowe is the man or not, don’t be shocked to see the Titans take more than one receiver in the draft and even possibly two on the first day. Almost all of the Titans’ pressing needs are on defense, so if this pick is made, don’t be stunned to see Tennessee commit the rest of its first-day picks and most of its remaining picks to the defensive side of the ball.
20. New York Giants 8 8 .500
Paul Posluszny, LB, Penn StateHaving released LaVar Arrington and Carlos Emmons, the Giants created a gaping hole in their linebacker corps. While Antonio Pierce is solid in the middle, the outside linebackers are a mess, which is why the Giants hotly pursued a trade with the Broncos to get Al Wilson. Even if the team does secure a veteran like Takeo Spikes in a deal, there will still be the need for more talent on the outside that is currently in short supply. Cornerback is also a consideration here because the tandem of R.W. McQuarters and Sam Madison no longer brings woe and dread to opposing offensive coordinators. While running back was viewed as a concern, there isn’t a Tiki Barber-type back worth taking here to complement Brandon Jacobs and Rueben Droughns.
21. Denver Broncos 9 7 .531
Adam Carriker, DE, NebraskaThe Broncos are never shy about making deals to acquire players. Following the tragic shooting of Darrent Williams, cornerback became a pressing need, but the Broncos filled that void nicely by swinging a trade for Dre Bly. The running back carousel continues with Tatum Bell out and, at least for now, Travis Henry brought in as a veteran replacement. The one area that is a concern and hasn’t been addressed is defensive end. The Broncos didn’t get a pass rush to speak of for much of last year, as the recycling program of former Cleveland defensive linemen that had started promising quickly soured in 2006. Carriker is a player whose stock has been rising for the last month or two and is viewed as a model citizen and a player whose upside outweighs his downside considerably. The recent banter is that Carriker is a “safe pick”—you know what you’re going to get and, if you’re expectations are reasonable, you won’t be disappointed. Carriker can make an immediate impact and not be an old Dawg Pound reject asked to learn some new tricks.
22. Dallas Cowboys 9 7 .563
Reggie Nelson, S, Florida—The Cowboys haven’t been overly active in free agency, but shored up a couple of problem areas—signing Leonard Davis for the offensive line and bringing in Brad Johnson to serve as a veteran mentor/backup to Tony Romo. The Cowboys aren’t shy about moving up or down on draft day. They’ve done it many times under Jerry Jones’ twitchy war room trigger finger. They have one of the game’s most feared safeties in Roy Williams, but finding a complement who can patrol the deep middle of the field and allow Williams to free lance and do what he does best has been seen as an offseason priority. Nelson has the speed and cover ability to play corner and the size to be a very good coverage safety. This pick would not only fill a need, but take the muzzle off Williams to the point it could turn him into a Defensive Player of the Year candidate.
23. Kansas City Chiefs 9 7 .492
Dwayne Jarrett, WR, USC—The Chiefs have spent most of their free-agent dollars to improve their defense, adding Napoleon Harris, Donnie Edwards and Alfonso Boone to plug holes on that side of the ball and bringing in Damion McIntosh to rebuild the offensive line. But one of the biggest problem areas for years has been wide receiver. The previous regimes ignored wide receiver early, but Herm Edwards has always had a penchant for the big, physical receiver and, at 6-5, Jarrett fits that bill perfectly. While he isn’t blessed with blazing speed, he comes from a pro-style offense in which he excelled and can make the jump to the next level. With an offense built around Larry Johnson and Tony Gonzalez, unless the Chiefs can develop an outside threat to go with Eddie Kennison, teams will continue to load eight men in the box to stuff Johnson. While Jarrett isn’t going to break any land speed records, he is a solid receiver and good value at this point of the first round.
24. New England (from Seattle)  9 7 .453
Brandon Meriweather, S, MiamiFew teams have been as busy as the typically frugal Patriots, who dropped big money on Adalius Thomas and Donte Stallworth and have made numerous smaller signings. With two picks in the first round, the team has the potential of moving up to grab a player they covet, but if they stay where they’re at, the areas that need the most work are on the defensive side of the ball. Meriweather is a big hitter that can initially be groomed as a replacement for Rodney Harrison, who is entering his 14th season. While linebacker and cornerback will also get serious consideration, Meriweather is a player that can be eased into the safety spot and, with his exceptional coverage skills, can be used as a nickel cornerback if needed. It’s time the Patriots stop using street free agents and converted wide receivers in the secondary. If they’re looking for another title, they need to get their defense in order, and Meriweather would be a great start to getting that done.
25. New York Jets 10 6 .469
Aaron Ross, CB, Texas—Defensive line is a possibility, and if Alan Branch continues to fall after word about his leg injuries, Eric Mangini might find him hard to pass up. But the Jets’ biggest needs are in the secondary, where Andre Dyson is pedestrian and Justin Miller and David Barrett are worse. While his experience as a starter in college was limited (he backed up Cedric Griffin until last year), he has skills that jump off the tape at you and consistently makes big plays. Some might ask how Ross could go in the first round with less experience than Griffin, who went on the second round. But last year, five CBs went on the first round and four more went in the second. This year’s corner crop isn’t nearly as deep and Ross is the best thing going after Leon Hall and Darrelle Revis. While a player like Branch (if he drops), Justin Harrell or Tank Tyler might be what Mangini looks for here, Ross has the potential to make the biggest immediate impact.
26. Philadelphia Eagles 10 6 .477
Jarvis Moss, DE, Florida—The Eagles have filled most of the holes that they have and are one of the few teams that can use the draft to provide depth more than glaring need. That being said, injuries have ravaged the DE position with Jevon Kearse and Jerome McDougle missing significant time and Broderick Bunkley seen as a complete bust as a rookie. Linebacker was viewed as a position of concern, which is why a ‘tweener like Anthony Spencer of Purdue would have been considered here, but the recent trade for Takeo Spikes went a long way to filling that need, so addressing the pass rush becomes the top priority. Moss is 6-6 and 250 pounds with room to grow. While Kearse is still the main man the Eagles hope can rebound to form, with his injury history, having a big man that can attack the quarterback is a must and Moss becomes a nice value pick at this point in the round.
27. New Orleans Saints 10 6 .461
Chris Houston, CB, Arkansas—The mini-run on defensive backs continues. The Saints had the league’s top-rated offense last year, but had to get a lot of points because their defense was such a liability that 30 points were almost a benchmark the offense had to put up to win games. They have corners that gamble and get beat and get beat often. Mike McKenzie and Fred Thomas are both over 30 and not looking like there is going to be much that can be expected out of them beyond the next year or two. Houston is short at less than 5-10, but he has great speed, good leaping ability and is solid in coverage. He might be asked to start as a nickel back, but don’t be stunned to see him push Thomas for his job in training camp and the preseason and take it over by midseason.
28. New England Patriots 12
4
.496
Jon Beason, LB, Miami—Much like Defensive Rookie of the Year DeMeco Ryans of the Texans, Beason looks a little undersized, but makes plays everywhere on the field and has the ability to play inside or outside in the right system. The Patriots pride themselves on taking defensive players who are instinctive and have “football smarts” and Beason is one of those of guys. Although the team signed Adalius Thomas to a huge offseason free agent contract, aging veterans like Mike Vrabel and Tedy Bruschi can’t be expected to hold up for a full season at this stage of their careers. While Beason won’t remind anyone of Ray Lewis, he is an active player who rarely misses tackles and could excel early with a Patriots defense predicated on knowing your own role and not taking on too much for yourself.
29. Baltimore Ravens
13
3
.461
Justin Blalock, OG, TexasThe Ravens made some big strides in 2006, but one of their glaring weaknesses was at guard, where Edwin Mulitalo and Keydrick Vincent are pedestrian at best. Blalock is the best interior lineman of the draft and any time you get a top player at a given position with the 29th pick, you have to be pretty pleased about that. There are some who believe that Blalock could make a smooth transition from guard to left tackle and, with Jonathon Ogden on the wrong side of 30 and starting to show the signs of wear and tear, he could an ideal candidate to be the eventual replacement for the future Hall of Fame left tackle.
30. San Diego Chargers 14 2 .457
Robert Meacham, WR, Tennessee—The Chargers are coming off a league-best 14-2 record in 2006, yet they did it with a first-year starting quarterback and little in the way of depth or talent at wide receiver. Meacham is the kind of receiver that gets scouts excited. He’s big, has blazing speed and has been steadily climbing up draft boards in the last month. With an offense built around LaDainian Tomlinson and a passing game centered on tight end Antonio Gates, the need for a complementary receiver is obvious. The Chargers allowed veteran Keenan McCardell to go away, so there is an opening for a player who potentially could work his way into being the go-to guy for Philip Rivers. The Chargers need to add a deep threat that can take the pressure off L.T. and force teams to abandon dropping eight in the box on most plays. Meacham has that kind of skill set and could make an immediate impact when given the chance.
31. Chicago Bears 13 3 .430
Tony Ugoh, OT, Arkansas—The Bears have a lot of options on which way to go with this pick. Why? Solid drafting over the last five years hasn’t left too many glaring holes. The trading of Thomas Jones has thinned out the running back pool a little bit, putting more onus on Cedric Benson to live up to his high draft standing. A year ago, the Bears used their top five draft choices on defensive players. Look for that to change this year—even if Lance Briggs opts to hold out for all or part of the 2007 season. Age is becoming a factor on the O-line, where right tackle Fred Miller is 34 and left tackle Jon Tait is 32. Ugoh could be an immediate backup for both spots and, more than likely, be shifted into the right tackle spot at some point as a replacement or to spell Miller, with designs made on eventually replacing Tait at left tackle. This pick could go one of several ways. Bears fans would love to see another wide receiver added to the offense, and the secondary is also going to be considered. But with the number of teams needing quality offensive tackles, the Bears may not be willing to wait the six picks between their first-round pick and the pick acquired early in the second round. They may have to jump on this one, and Ugoh is a prospect whose stock has been on the rise.
32. Indianapolis Colts 12 4 .500
Justin Harrell, DT, Tennessee—The Colts run the same defense as the Vikings and it’s the same front that Tony Dungy brought to the Bucs when he had Warren Sapp anchoring the middle. Harrell is a versatile athlete who has shown the ability to be a defensive tackle that can collapse the pocket or be an anchor in a 3-4 scheme. The Colts clearly have the offense to repeat as champions, but, prior to playoffs, their opposition found ways to run at will on them. Getting a 300-pounder to clog inside running lanes is a top priority and, whether it would be Harrell or Tank Tyler, look for this position to be addressed. Last year when the Colts needed a running back, they jumped on Joseph Addai and got the payoff almost immediately. Dungy has reached for players like Addai and Dwight Freeney before. The best thing about Harrell is that, at this point, taking him isn’t a big stretch.


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