Mock Draft: Version 7.0

The seventh (and we hope final) incarnation of our extensive mock draft is here. Who do we have the Vikings picking? What about the other teams in the first round? We give not only our picks, but also explain why we're leaning that way. Grab a large cup of coffee and dig in.

OVERVIEW: In what we anticipate to be our final mock draft, there is some final movement up and down the board of specific players, with much of the attention being paid to wide receiver Percy Harvin, who is said to have met with Vikings head coach Brad Childress Thursday. If that meeting went well, Harvin could easily be the Vikings pick at No. 22. However, we're not sure the team will be willing to look past character and injury issues, adding to the drama leading into their pick.

Original Team's W-L and Strength of Schedule
No. Club
Strength of Schedule
1. Detroit Lions
0 .559
Matthew Stafford, QB, Georgia -  It has been the recent history of drafts that, when a team has a glaring need at quarterback, the top-rated QB in a draft class tends to rise to the top. It happened two years ago with JaMarcus Russell. It happened with Alex Smith prior to that. While the Lions have needs on both sides of the ball, trying to energize a fan base that has seen nothing but garbage from the organization since the time Matt Millen was inexplicably hired to be the general manager is the top priority. Stafford's stock has been skyrocketing because he has many of the prototype intangibles teams look for, especially ones as desperate as Detroit . The safe pick here would be an offensive tackle like Andre Smith, Jason Smith or Eugene Monroe, but offensive linemen don't sell jerseys. The new regime needs a face to the franchise and, after trading Jon Kitna and losing Dan Orlovsky to the Texans, all that remains is Daunte Culpepper - and he isn't a long-term answer. Given the 2008 success of Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco, there may be less apprehension to take Stafford than there may have been if not for the recent achievements of rookie QBs. The Lions can't get any worse than 0-16. Getting a potential franchise QB will help fans forget the malaise of 2008 quicker than a building-block player.
2. St. Louis Rams
Jason Smith, OT, Baylor -  The Rams have a lot of needs, but none are more pressing than left tackle. Orlando Pace was released due to injuries and age. Fortunately for them, the OT crop is deep at the top and they could make a choice between Smith, Eugene Monroe and Andre Smith or Jason Smith- each is likely to be an effective pro. This pick could just as easily be Monroe, who many believe is more NFL-ready at this point, but Smith is a player viewed with a ton of upside and the Rams likely couldn't go wrong taking either one of them.
3. Kansas City Chiefs
Aaron Curry, LB, Wake Forest -  Any thought about the Chiefs going with a quarterback went away when the team traded for Matt Cassel and didn't have to part with this premium pick. The Chiefs had just 10 sacks last year in their first season without Jared Allen- a dismal NFL record including strike-shortened seasons. If there was a dominant pure defensive end in the draft, they would likely go that route, but the Chiefs are shifting to a 3-4 defense and moving OLB Derrick Johnson inside. Curry is arguably the most dominant athlete in the draft and the combination of him and veteran Mike Vrabel should help the Chiefs take big strides in the right direction quicker than some may have envisioned just a month ago.  If the Chiefs are looking for more of a pure pass-rushing defensive end, Brian Orapko of Texas may get the nod, but our money remains with Curry.
4. Seattle Seahawks
Mark Sanchez, QB, USC - Ideally, the Seahawks would like to move down a few spots and still be able to grab Sanchez. But with the cost associated with the No. 4 pick, there may not be too many takers unless they're willing to pay a Bears-like ransom. This pick should come down to one of two players – Sanchez or offensive tackle Eugene Monroe. While Monroe is a much safer pick, the health of 34-year-old Matt Hasselbeck has become a more pressing issue since he has missed time in each of the last two years and the Seahawks have struggled when he's been out. While we're not sold on Sanchez as a top-flight NFL QB because of his lack of playing experience, he would step into a situation where he wouldn't be asked to start right away and could grow as a professional.
5. Cleveland Browns 4 12 0 .572
Brian Orapko, DE/OLB, Texas  -  The 2009 season for the Browns could well hinge on the health of Jamal Lewis. Although he isn't 30 yet, there is a lot of mileage on those tires and he is ready to collapse. While we still believe the Browns will try to trade down a few spots and take Beanie Wells- the only big running back at the top of the 2009 draft class- if Eric Mangini's defense is to succeed, getting an impact defensive player is a must. Orapko reminds a lot of scouts of guys like Leonard Little or Terrell Suggs. In a 3-4 defense like Mangini runs, he can be plugged in as either a DE or OLB (emphasis on the latter) and be a difference-maker. While we would still lean toward moving down and taking Wells, if the Browns stay here, Orapko is the most likely fit. If the rumored trade of Braylon Edwards comes through, wide receiver would be a must-pick here, since the team would be without Edwards, Donte Stallworth and Kellen Winslow. In that event, look for Michael Crabtree to be the pick.
6. Cincinnati Bengals 4 11 1 .553
Eugene Monroe, OT, Virginia - There is a lot of speculation that the Bengals might take Michael Crabtree if he's still available, which would give the team the flexibility to trade trouble-making wide receiver Chad Johnson. But if the Bengals are ever to climb out of their typical spot in the cellar of AFC North, it will require an offensive line that can protect franchise QB Carson Palmer. Monroe is probably the safest pick left on the board because he could make an immediate impact and take over for Levi Jones practically from Day 1 and allow the oft-injured left tackle to move to the right side when the strain on his ailing body would be less.
7. Oakland Raiders 5 11
Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech -  Crazy Al Davis is still living in the 1970s, where his vertical offense was king. In the last two drafts, the Raiders have picked first and fifth, taking JaMarcus Russell and Darren McFadden. Crabtree is the most athletically gifted wide receiver in this year's class and he has big play written all over him. Davis has always had a soft spot for offensive players with game-changing abilities and this year should be no different. Just like Adrian Peterson fell naturally to the Vikings two years ago, other needs for the teams in front of the Raiders and potential concerns about Crabtree's foot surgery will allow him to fall into this spot, where Davis will hope that he has his own version of The Triplets coming out of the last three drafts. There remains some strong speculation that because Davis is so enamored with speed that he might make Jeremy Maclin the pick here, but it's hard to dispute the playmaking ability of Crabtree – even for a fossil like Uncle Al.
8. Jacksonville Jaguars 5 11 0 .537
Jeremy Maclin, WR Missouri -  The Jaguars had a brutal wide receiver corps to begin with and it got worse when the team released drug-addled receiver Matt Jones. While I am not convinced that the depth at wide receiver in this year's draft may not have a similar scenario we saw last year – so many second-round talents that everyone passed in the first round – the Jaguars need big-time help at wide receiver and Maclin is a big step up from what they would get in the second round. With Jack Del Rio's job on the line, as a defensive coach he may lean toward pushing the war room to take defensive tackle B.J. Raji. But, Maclin had game-breaking speed and could be a bigger immediate difference-maker, which is what Del Rio really needs. The Jaguars made a splash this week by signing veteran Torry Holt, but he is far from a long-term answer. While some believe that may be enough to get the Jaguars to go in a different direction, Maclin's big-play ability may be the trump card.
9. Green Bay Packers 6 10 0 .504
Everette Brown, DE/OLB, Florida State - With the Packers moving to a 3-4 defense, they will need significant upgrades at both rush defensive end and outside linebacker. Brown can fill one of those needs immediately. The most difficult part of making such a switch is making sure to have the personnel in place that can get it done and, as it stands now, the Packers don't have that. They have been very quiet during free agency and have yet to bring any outside free agents to fill the needs of the defensive front seven. After spending six of their top eight picks on offense last year, 2009 may be the defense's turn.
10. San Francisco 49ers 7 9 0 .447
Andre Smith, OT, Alabama - The 49ers have destroyed the laboratory that once housed Mike Martz and his evil plans to conquer the football world. Mike Singletary has taken over the day-to-day operations of the business and his vision includes a power running game – something not even remotely on the Martz radar. Smith's stock has been questioned since he went AWOL from the Combine, but his value here for a team trying to re-shape its offense on the fly is just too strong a pull. Had Mark Sanchez still been on the board, the Niners likely would grab him, but with an elite offensive tackle available to him, the smashmouth vision Singletary sold to ownership is best served by taking a bookend for the offensive line.
11. Buffalo Bills 7 9 0 .453
Aaron Maybin, DE/OLB, Penn State - The Bills have just one legitimate pass rusher in Aaron Schobel and when he went down to injury in Week 4 last year, Buffalo's pass rush all but collapsed. Chris Kelsay and Ryan Denney are solid against the run, but the Bills need to add a difference-maker that can create havoc in the backfield. Maybin is explosive off the snap and would immediately give the Bills a pass-rush specialist who could be worked into more playing time as the season progresses.
12. Denver Broncos 8 8 0 .457
B.J. Raji, DT, Boston College - The Broncos' downfall the last couple of years has been a defense unable to stop anyone. That was especially true against the run, where former coach Mike Shanahan seemed to fall in love with everyone who ever wore a Cleveland Browns uniform. New coach Josh McDaniels wants to install a Patriots-style offense and defense and getting an active interior lineman is a must. Raji could be off the board as early as No. 5 or 6, so if he falls this far, Denver will consider themselves fortunate. If, however, Matt Sanchez is still on the board, look for McDaniels to take him and start building his own Frankenstein monster.
13. Washington Redskins 8 8 0 .479
Michael Oher, OT, Mississippi - This may be a bit of a reach for Oher, who wasn't the most consistent player in college, but the Redskins need to infuse some youth into the offensive line. All five of their 2008 starters were 30 or older and you can't let a line grow old together without having replacements ready. The Redskins would be an ideal landing spot for Oher, who could immediately battle Jon Jansen at right tackle and eventually take over at OLT for Chris Samuels.
14. New Orleans Saints 8 8 0 .496
Malcolm Jenkins, CB, Ohio State -  The Saints problems in 2008 (and the previous couple of seasons as well) can be summed up in one word: defense. The Saints had the top-rated offense in the NFL, yet were never in the playoff chase. The help clearly needs to come on the defensive side of the ball. The only question is where. It could come from linebackers like USC's Brian Cushing or Ohio State's James Laurinaitis, but, with as often as the Saints have been scorched over the top the last couple of years, it would seem clear that cornerback has to be a top priority. The release of Mike McKenzie will test that lack of depth even more and make the position more of a pressing need. Jenkins doesn't have blazing speed, but he has excellent game speed and doesn't get burned often. With the additions of Jabari Green and Darren Sharper to the secondary, Jenkins could help the team take the next step to being one of the dominant teams in the NFC.
15. Houston Texans
0 .518
Brian Cushing, OLB, USC - This pick should come down to one of two people – Cushing or defensive end Tyson Jackson, who would be tempting to line up opposite Mario Williams. The Texans are very young at linebacker with Xavier Adibi and Zac Diles expected to enter training camp as the starters. Cushing would play insider or outside in the system and could, at the minimum, provide depth early on and work his way into the starting lineup at some point. The wild card here could be if Beanie Wells is still on the board. He's a big back that would complement Steve Slaton nicely, since many believe Slaton won't be able to stand up to the pounding of being a 20-carry back. But Gary Kubiak was weaned under Mike Shanahan, who always believed he could take RBs in the middle to late rounds, which could add to the speculation that the Texans go defense with this pick.
16. San Diego Chargers 8 8 0 .516
Chris Wells, RB, Ohio State - A lot of draft analysts believe the Chargers will look defense with this pick, but if Wells is still on the board, it will be hard to pass him up. The team lost Michael Turner last year, had to franchise Darren Sproles to keep him from following suit and restructured LaDainian Tomlinson's deal to keep from releasing him. It seems clear that Sproles will be gone after next year and the same may be true for Tomlinson, who has broken down at the end of the last two seasons. Wells is the only big back at the top of the draft and, after an eye-opening Pro Day, he will be on the short list for every team looking for a running back. He could be the ideal player to step in for the Chargers and give them depth for now and a starter for 2010.
17. New York Jets 9 7 0 .471
Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Maryland - The Jets have to make the decision whether to put their full confidence in Kellen Clemens and take a much better short-term fix in DHB or potentially reach on the chance of greatness with a QB like Josh Freeman. The Jets went short-term last year by trading for Brett Favre, which cost them the 83rd pick in this year's draft. Clemens had a chance to take in the system without the pressure of being pushed into the lineup. With the decks cleared of his mentors – Favre and Chad Pennington – it is more likely that the Jets will use this pick to give him another weapon to throw to rather than create a competition with another unproven QB for one starting job.
18. Denver Broncos (from Chicago) 9 7 0 .475
Josh Freeman, QB, Kansas State -  Unless the Broncos believe they have a long-term answer in Kyle Orton – those of us who have seen him live on a few occasions would question that line of thinking – Josh McDaniels has his project to mold as his example of what his coaching acumen can be. He wanted Matt Cassel and lost Jay Cutler as a result. With this pick, he takes the guy he hopes to mold into the franchise player of the future. If he succeeds, he looks like a genius who will have the NFL world singing his praises. If he fails, he and Freeman will likely go down with the ship together. It's a risky pick, but one Denver may need to make to energize an upset fan base that appears to have loved Cutler.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 9 7 0 .480
Peria Jerry, DT, Mississippi -  The team's best defensive tackle – Jovan Haye – left via free agency and, as it stands, their top DT is former Chris Hovan, who was no great shakes when he left Minnesota and has done much of his same disappearing act in Tampa Bay. If Freeman hadn't gone in the previous pick, the Bucs would likely snag him with this pick. However, with him gone, they must address need. Linebackers and defensive ends will be available in numbers in the coming round. The DT crop is weak and goes downhill from this pick on, making the chance to lock down one of the top DTs even more of a must..
20. Detroit Lions (from Dallas) 9 7 0 .498
Rey Maualuga, ILB, USC -  For being the first 0-16 team in NFL history, the Lions have been shockingly active in free agency, finding veterans willing to help them build up at running back (Maurice Morris), defensive tackle (Grady Jackson), cornerback (Phillip Buchanon and Anthony Henry) and wide receiver (Bryant Johnson). With the QB of the future taken with the first pick, this choice- acquired in the Roy Williams deal- would help significantly upgrade the linebacker position. The combination of Maualuga and Ernie Sims could help make the Lions much more viable and, with all the other upgrades, while not a 2009 contender, Detroit won't be an automatic win next season.
21. Philadelphia 9 6 1 .514
Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Oklahoma State -  The Eagles made a big pre-draft splash by trading the 28th pick in the first round to Buffalo in exchange for left tackle Jason Peters. As a result, instead of having two picks, which played into the thought process of the direction the Eagles would go, being back to one pick and left tackle off the wish list, this comes down to taking who can make the most immediate impact. Running back remains a possibility, since it has become clear in recent years that Brian Westbrook – for all his talent – can't stay healthy for 16 games and his workload can't continue to be as high as it is when he is 100 percent. But so much of the West Coast Offense the Eagles run is predicated on using the tight end as an offensive weapon. For years, L.J. Smith was that guy. But he's gone via free agency and the Philly offense needs a boost. Pettigrew has the potential to be a go-to receiver early on for Donovan McNabb, which may be as important as any addition to the wide receiver or corps or the backfield.
22. Minnesota Vikings 10 6 0 .504
Eben Britton, OT, Arizona - Trying to get a handle on who the Vikings are going to take in the first round is difficult at best. If it was me, I would go after Percy Harvin, because with defenses terrified of Adrian Peterson and respectful of Bernard Berrian, having a playmaker with his Reggie Bush-type intangibles in the receiver corps would add a dimension to the Vikings offense that would be hard to match. But, the biggest pre-draft question mark right now (unless you're still hung up on not getting Jay Cutler) is the offensive line. Britton is an experienced right tackle that could likely step in on Day One as the starter, allowing the Vikings, if they choose, to move Ryan Cook back to his natural center position and battle it out with John Sullivan during training camp. The right tackle spot has been weak for the last three or four years and, with a superstar talent like Peterson as the centerpiece of the offense, finding players that can help spring him for long runs seems more important at this point in the draft.
23. New England Patriots 11 5 0 .480
Clay Matthews, OLB, USC -  The Patriots have been uncharacteristically active in free agency, but they have done nothing to address the linebacker position. The group aged together and has been dismantled over the last couple of years- the final blow being the trading of Mike Vrabel to the Chiefs. The Pats love players who are versatile, hard-working and smart and Matthews gets high grades in all those regards, making him a logical choice with this pick.
24. Atlanta Falcons 11 5 0 .459
Evander "Ziggy" Hood, DT, Missouri - The Falcons made the playoffs last year after making surprising progress on offense with the signing of Michael Turner and the drafting of Matt Ryan and helped the offense again this week by trading for Tony Gonzalez. Now it's the defense's turn. Hood is a solid 4-3 tackle who can likely push for a starting job during training camp. In a division that features some tough running backs that can grind down the clock, having a run-stopping presence in the middle is vital if the Falcons expect to make another playoff run. While several defensive positions will likely get a look, Hood would seem to be the best fit to see immediate playing time.
25. Miami Dophins 11 5 0 .461
Vontae Davis, CB, Illinois - Davis, the brother of 49ers tight end Vernon Davis, is a rarity at 6-0, 205 at the corner position with legitimate 4.4 speed. The Dolphins made a lot of progress in the first year under Bill Parcells, turning Miami from a 1-15 team into a division champion. Parcells has been able to take players with great talent that are viewed as something of a head case and transform them into dominant pro players. Davis has had his desire questioned and that has shown up with inconsistent play. Some teams may not have him rated as a first-round talent because of those bad attributes, but there is no questioning his pure physical ability. If the Dolphins are to fight off the Patriots now that Tom Brady is returning, they will need a cornerback that can make plays. Eric Green and Will Allen likely aren't the answer. This will be a risk-reward pick, but one that could have a ton of upside in an area of need.
26. Baltimore Ravens 11 5 0 .521
James Laurinaitis, ILB, Ohio State - The Ravens have seen their defense picked apart in free agency and replacement parts are needed. Bart Scott is gone to the Jets, but Ray Lewis remains and would be an ideal mentor to Laurinaitis, who doesn't have off-the-wall intangibles or workout numbers, but works his tail off on every play. Having the willingness to make the sacrifices needed to improve, playing alongside a future Hall of Famer in Lewis could be just what Laurinaitis needs to excel at the next level, where he won't be asked to be the main man, just a strong contributor.
27. Indianpolis Colts 12 4 0 .498
Percy Harvin, WR, Florida - Aside from the Vikings, there is no better landing spot for Harvin than in Indy. A first-round talent for sure, Harvin doesn't have the makeup to be a true No. 1 receiver. If he were to land somewhere like Philadelphia, Tennessee or St. Louis, that is what would be asked of him. But in Indianapolis, the Colts have Reggie Wayne and Anthony Gonzalez entrenched as starters, Harvin could do for them what he did at Florida – move around the field and make plays. He is a game-breaker and, with Peyton Manning getting him the ball, he could be the proverbial S.O.D. (Steal of the Draft) this year.
28. Buffalo Bills (from Carolina via Philadelphia) 12
0 .488
William Beatty, OT, Connecticut - The Bills have a lot of questions on both sides of the ball, but need to find a replacement for Jason Peters, who was traded to the Eagles to get this pick. When Buffalo picked at No. 11, all three of the top blue-chip tackle prospects were gone. Able to address a pressing defensive need at the top of the draft, they still go about the process of replacing a consistent force on the blind side of the QB. With Terrell Owens likely to be demanding the ball, keeping the quarterback upright to deliver those passes will become a pressing issue, making this pick – while possibly a bit of a reach – necessary before the Bills pick again 14 slots down the road.
29. New York Giants
0 .502
Hakeem Nicks, WR, North Carolina - The Giants let Plaxico Burress go after the team learned he was trying to cut a deal (with a guilty plea) on his gun charge. While they have a young group of receivers, Nicks can provide the big-play capability that is missing. The Giants have been among the teams rumored to be in pursuit of a veteran receiver that may or may not be traded, like Anquan Boldin, Braylon Edwards or Chad Johnson. If a trade does happen, the team trading the veteran wide receiver will likely make this pick. But that probably won't happen until the G-men are on the clock. Until then, they need to give Eli Manning a weapon and Nicks has the power to be a big-play threat from Day One.
30. Tennessee Titans 13 3 0 .459
Tyson Jackson, DE, LSU - The Titans are always in the market for wide receiver help and, if this year's draft plays out like last year's and talented wideouts drop like rocks, that could be the direction the team goes –Percy Harvin could be directly in their sights. But the Titans have become a dominant team through defense. The loss of Albert Haynesworth to his mega-deal with the Redskins hurts badly, but there is also the question of the continued health of both DEs Jevon Kearse and Kyle Vanden Bosch. Both have injury histories and the depth behind them is thin. Jackson isn't a flashy pass rusher, but he's the biggest DE in the draft and would provide a solid run-stopper and situational pass rusher from the inside on third downs. Harvin could have greatness written all over him, but Jackson is the safer pick.
31. Arizona Cardinals 9 7 0 .486
Knowshon Moreno, RB, Georgia - It seems all but certain that Edgerrin James won't be back next year and the Cardinals brass isn't convinced that Tim Hightower can be a 20-carry-a-game workhorse. Moreno is a between-the-tackles runner who tends to go on one cut and gain the most yardage possible. That was what the Cardinals expected from James up until last season. With the passing offense remaining intact, if Arizona wants to return to the Super Bowl, it will need to upgrade the running game. They would do cartwheels if a big back like Beanie Wells could fall all the way to this spot, but Moreno isn't a bad consolation prize.
32. Pittsburgh Steelers 12 4 0 .525
Robert Ayers, DE, Tennessee - The Steelers have always loved athletes that are versatile and coachable. Ayers brings both to the table. At 270 pounds, he has the agility to be a stand-up rusher as an outside ‘backer in the 3-4 and the frame to add 10-15 more pounds and be a pure defensive end in a 3-4 front. Mike Tomlin has preached about getting the Steelers younger on the defensive front. To date, that hasn't happened. Taking Ayers would be a big step in that transition beginning.

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