Version 1: Updated March 27-April 8
1. Oakland Raiders- WR Calvin Johnson, Georgia Tech
Before the college football season even began, Notre Dame’s Brady Quinn was pegged for the top pick in the 2007 Draft. But after an up-and-down season that included back-to-back loses to USC and LSU, Quinn’s stock began to drop. For months, everyone has assumed that Quinn’s counterpart in the Sugar Bowl, LSU’s JaMarcus Russell, would be chosen #1 overall. The Raiders desperately need a quarterback and Russell has the kind of measurable that Raiders’ owner Al Davis covets. While Russell has not done anything to lose his hold on the #1 overall pick, Georgia Tech wideout Calvin Johnson may have done enough to steal it away from him. Bigger then most linebackers in this class, Johnson took a step into the next stratosphere when he ran a 4.35 40 yard dash at the combine, while weighing in at 240 lbs. This pick probably only happens if the Raiders do two things: a) acquire a veteran quarterback like Trent Green or David Carr, and b) trade Randy Moss. If those two things happen, Johnson’s immense talent should be too much for the Raiders to pass up.
2. Detroit Lions- QB Brady Quinn, Notre Dame
The Lions said early in the draft process that they were satisfied with quarterback Jon Kitna, a veteran who put up the best Detroit passing numbers of the decade. But Kitna is in his mid 30’s and is nearing the end of his career, and Notre Dame’s Brady Quinn may be too good to pass up. Once rumored to possibly slip out of the top 10, Quinn has impressed enough in his post-season workouts to warrant a pick this high. If the Lions decide that quarterback is not their most pressing need, then the team could go after Wisconsin tackle Joe Thomas, Georgia Tech wide receiver Calvin Johnson, or Clemson defensive end Gaines Adams.
3. Cleveland Browns- QB JaMarcus Russell, LSU
The last time the Browns took a quarterback with their first pick it set their franchise back, oh, about eight years. Tim Couch was a monumental flop after the Cleveland selected him with the #1 overall pick in 1999, and the Browns have struggled to find consistency at quarterback ever since. The moves the Browns have made in the offseason, upgrading the offensive line with Eric Steinbach and their running game with Jamal Lewis, lets them take a chance at one of the top two quarterbacks, if they fall. Russell is a monster for a quarterback at 265 lbs. and has a cannon for a right arm. He could come in and start right away or he could sit for a year while Charlie Frye continues to develop. The problem is everyone expects Russell to go #1, if that’s the case, the Browns could then look at Oklahoma running back Adrian Peterson or Wisconsin offensive tackle Joe Thomas. But all indications are, if either Quinn or Russell drops, the Browns would select them at #3.
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- DT Amobi Okoye, Louisville
The last time John Gruden coached at the Senior Bowl, he fell for Auburn running back Cadillac Williams, who the team selected #5 overall in 2004. While most people don’t even have Amobi Okoye as the draft’s top defensive tackle, it would fill a major hole in the once proud Tampa Bay defense. The team would love if Georgia Tech wide receiver Calvin Johnson fell, and it could happen. If Johnson is gone (and don’t be surprised if they try to trade up and get him) and the team decides not to take Okoye, Clemson defensive end Gaines Adams or Wisconsin tackle Joe Thomas might draw consideration.
5. Arizona Cardinals- OT Joe Thomas, Wisconsin
Over the last few years, the Cardinals have really upgraded the overall talent of their roster. Quarterback Matt Leinart, the team’s first round selection last year, showed signs in his rookie season that he can continue the success he had in college. Wide receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin are the league’s top young pass catching tandem, and last year’s signing of Edgerin James finally gave the Cardinals a 1,000 yard rusher. James’ first season in Arizona, however, can hardly be considered a success, as he saw his yards per carry drop 4.6 in 2005 to only 3.8 last year. James’ struggles, of course, aren’t his fault entirely. The Cardinals offensive line has been one of the leagues worst units for over a decade. Adding a top-notch left tackle like Joe Thomas would instantly upgrade their line, and could make them a playoff contender under new head coach Ken Wisenhunt. If Thomas is off the board, there are no other offensive linemen that would be worthy of this pick so the team could trade down. Or, they could try to improve their defense with a lineman like Gaines Adams, Alan Branch, or Jamaal Anderson.
6. Washington Redskins- DE Gaines Adams, Clemson
The Redskins are quickly turning into the NFL’s version of the New York Knicks. The past few offseasons have been filled with big name free agent signings who have failed to help the team produce wins. This offseason has been no different, as Washington shelled out big money contracts to London Fletcher-Baker, Jason Fabini, and Fred Smoot. Their defense, which was one of the league’s premier units in 2005, struggled in 2006 in large part because they couldn’t put pressure on the quarterback. Enter Clemson defensive end Gaines Adams with the sixth overall pick. A natural pass rusher with good size at 6’5, 260 lbs., Adams would start right away and immediately improve the Redskins pass rush. Of course, this pick has been rumored to go to the Chicago Bears in exchange for Lance Briggs. The pick would put the Bears in strange position because they have very few holes. If the Bears do acquire this pick, they could reach for Penn State offensive tackle Levi Brown, or cut ties with defensive tackle Tank Johnson and take Amobi Okoye or Alan Branch. The most likely scenario for the Bears, however, would be to trade down to a team looking for Adrian Peterson or LaRon Landry, and stockpile picks.
7. Minnesota Vikings- DE Jamaal Anderson, Arkansas
After a promising start to the 2006 season, the Vikings slipped back into mediocrity. Head Coach Brad Childress spent his first season building the teams offensive line and running game, and now he must turn his attention to the defense. Two players, Arkansas defensive end Jamaal Anderson and LSU safety LaRon Landry, should still be on the board here, and both would immediately bolster a Vikings defense that struggled throughout last year. The Vikings have spent first round picks in recent years on defensive ends Kenechi Uduze and Erasamus James, but both have failed to live up to expectations. Anderson would give them a premier edge rusher who is drawing comparisons to the game’s top defensive players. If one of the quarterbacks slip, Minnesota might be tempted to pull the trigger. The team also has a big need at wide receiver after Troy Williamson, the #7 pick in the 2004 draft, seemed to drop more balls than he caught.
8. Atlanta Falcons- RB Adrian Peterson, Oklahoma
It would be very hard to see Adrian Peterson slipping this far, I have him as the second best prospect overall, and if he gets past Cleveland there may be teams looking to trade up to get him. If not for durability concerns, Peterson could be considered one of the most complete running prospects in a long time. When healthy, he carried the Sooners offense on his back and made them one of the elite teams in the country almost single-handedly. Atlanta has a good running back in Warrick Dunn, but a prospect like Peterson would be too good to pass up with the #8 pick.
9. Miami Dolphins- DT Alan Branch, Michigan
A mountain of a man at 6’6 and 330 lbs., Alan Branch has the ability to dominate an offensive line. While his production in college was a bit underwhelming, Branch has everything you look for in a dominant run stopper in the middle of the line. The Dolphins defense struggled last year, while their offense failed to find consistency. Daunte Culpepper cannot be counted on as a franchise quarterback any longer, so if either Russell or Quinn slips, the Dolphins would have to take a good look at them.
10. Houston Texans- S LaRon Landry, LSU
Nobody drew more criticism on draft day last year then the Texans. By passing up Reggie Bush and Vince Young for Mario Williams, the Texans made a clear statement saying they were building their team around defense. Williams struggled in his first year, finishing with only 4.5 sacks, but he and fellow rookie DeMeco Ryans prove the Texans defense has a bright future. Dunta Robinson is a very good cornerback, but the team could still use a playmaker in the secondary like LaRon Landry. Already drawing comparison’s to Ed Reed, Landry is a true impact player that could take the Houston defense to the next level. If Landry is gone, the team could look to help out new quarterback Matt Schaub by taking either Ohio State wide receiver Teddy Ginn Jr., or Penn State left tackle Levi Brown.
11. San Francisco 49ers- MLB Patrick Willis, Ole Miss
The 49ers were one of the NFL’s most surprising teams last year. Their young offense grew up fast with Alex Smith rebounding from a disappointing rookie year, and Frank Gore becoming one of the league’s top running backs, rushing for over 1,600 yards. San Francisco now has to focus on building their defense, already signing cornerback Nate Clements to an 8 year, $80 million contract. Patrick Willis was one of college football’s top inside linebackers last year and is quickly moving up draft charts. After running a 4.38 at his pro day, the Ole Miss product is now considered a legit top 15 selection. The 49ers could decide to add a defensive lineman like Amobi Okoye or Alan Branch, if they’re available, or they could go with a wide receiver like Ted Ginn Jr., or USC’s Dwayne Jarrett.
12. Buffalo Bills- CB Leon Hall, Michigan
The Bills better make this pick count because they’ve already had one of the roughest offseasons in the league. They traded running back Willis McGahee to the Ravens for only a couple of third round picks, and cornerback Nate Clements left for San Francisco. The Bills could look to fill one of those two holes with this pick, taking a running back like Marshawn Lynch or a cornerback for Michigan’s Leon Hall. Hall is considered the top corner in this draft and would immediately help ease the loss of Clements.
13. St. Louis Rams- DE Adam Carriker, Nebraska
The moves the Rams made to improve their defense last year didn’t work out, so St. Louis will reload on that side of the ball in this draft. A linebacker like Patrick Willis or Paul Posluszny could be the pick, but a talent like Carriker would immediately bolster there defensive line. At 6’6, 300 lbs., Carriker is athletic enough to defensive end and strong to play defensive tackle. That versatility should only help his stock come draft day.
14. Carolina Panthers- TE Greg Olsen, Miami
The Panthers had high hopes for their 2006 season, picked by many to win the NFC. But injuries and inconsistent quarterback play doomed Carolina, as they finished a disappointing 8-8. Since there won’t be a quarterback available that would warrant this pick, the Panthers could decide to give Jake Delhomme more weapons. A wide receiver like Ted Ginn or Dwayne Jarrett could help out, but Miami’s Greg Olsen would add a dimension the Carolina offense has lacked since Wesley Walls retired. Kyle Wright and the Miami offense struggled passing the ball last season, but Olsen’s postseason workouts overshadow any concern of a disappointing junior season.
15. Pittsburgh Steelers- OT Levi Brown, Penn State
You could make a case for a linebacker with this pick, after the Steelers lost Joey Porter in free agency to the Miami Dolphins. But the team’s top concern should be protecting Ben Roethlisberger, who an extremely disappointing 2006. Penn State’s Levi Brown is unanimously considered the class’ second best tackle and could go in the top 10. If Brown in gone, the Steelers could consider Florida State linebacker Lawrence Timmons or Penn State’s Paul Posluszny.
16. Green Bay Packers- RB Marshawn Lynch, California
Considering the overall talent level of its roster, the Packers overachieved last year. Not being eliminated from playoff contention until after the final week of the season, the Packers young defense showed signs that it could evolve into one of the league’s best. The offseason, however, has not been so kind to their offense. Losing running back Ahmad Green in free agency to the Texans, the Packers will try to add playmakers and team speed on offense in the draft. A wide receiver, like Dwayne Jarrett or Ohio State’s Ted Ginn is an option, but Cal’s Marshawn Lynch would be an ideal fit. Lynch could go as high as 12 to the Bills, who lost Willis McGahee to the Ravens, but he would likely be the pick here if available.
17. Jacksonville Jaguars- LB Paul Posluszny, Penn State
The Jaguars offense struggled to find consistency in 2006, partly because they lacked stability at quarterback. Byron Leftwich and David Garrard took turns running the offense, and both led them to mediocre results. One positive of the Jags was the emergence of second round pick Maurice Jones-Drew. Veteran running back Fred Taylor seemed to take Drew under his wing, as the rookie rushed for 13 touchdowns. Jacksonville could look to upgrade its defense with its first pick, and Paul Posluszny would be great choice. Following in the tradition of great Penn State linebackers like Jack Ham and Lavar Arrington, Puz won the Butkus award as a junior and led the Nitney Lions defense in tackles as a senior. If they opt to address their secondary, a safety like Reggie Nelson would make be an immediate upgrade.
18. Cincinnati Bengals- LB Jon Beason, Miami
The Bengals on-field performance was overshadowed horrendous off-field behavior in 2006. Carson Palmer’s return from knee surgery was about the only good story for a Bengals team that saw nine players get arrested. So what do the do with their first round pick in this draft? They select a linebacker from the morally sound football program in Coral Gables! Although many felt he was better served to stay another year in school, Miami’s Jon “Big Beast” Beason was one of the few consistent parts in a Miami team that underachieved in 2006. Cornerback is another concern for the Bengals who could also target someone like Pitt’s Darrelle Revis. No word yet on how Beason’s commitment to the Seventh Floor Crew will affect his draft status.
19. Tennessee Titans- WR Dwayne Jarrett, USC
The Titans were among the most pleasant of surprises in the 2006 NFL season. Vince Young proved all his draft day detractors wrong (nice call Merrill Hodge) by leading Tennessee to an 8-8 record with a team that had limited offensive weapons. Though it was further along then most expected, Young still has a little work to do on his passing game, so adding a wide receiver makes sense with this pick. After losing top wideout Drew Bennett, a receiver seems like their top priority, and there should be a lot of good ones available. LSU’s Dwayne Bowe, USC’s Dwayne Jarrett, and Ohio State’s Ted Ginn all excel in different aspects, but Jarrett is the most complete of all of them. Breaking the Pac 10 record for touchdown receptions in only 3 seasons at USC, Jarrett would be able to reunite with old Trojan offensive coordinator Norm Chow in Tennessee.
20. New York Giants- CB Darrell Revis, LSU
An award for the NFL’s most maligned player in 2006 would have to include Eli Manning in its nominees. You would probably have to look to Chicago to find a quarterback that experienced as many ups and downs and Manning, as his Giants fought their way into the playoffs only to lose in the first round. The Giants offense could probably use a young playmaking wide receiver but their defense should be New York’s chief concern. While a linebacker like Puz or Big Beast could be the pick, depth at cornerback is essential for the Giants. Darrell Revis posted a strong junior season and has now asserted himself as the class’s second best corner.
21. Broncos- DE Jarvis Moss, Florida
The Broncos have been up and down on draft day the past few seasons. Last year they struck gold with quarterback Jay Cutler and defensive end Elvis Dumervil, but picks like Maurice Clarett and Willie Middlebrooks didn’t work out in previous seasons. Denver will probably look to use its first pick on defense, either an inside linebacker, defensive end, or safety. Jarvis Moss would be a good fit here and could team up with Dumervil as one of the league’s premier set of young, edge rushing defensive ends. Moss’ dominance in the national championship means he could be gone by the time this pick comes around, so fellow Gator Reggie Nelson is also an option.
22. Cowboys- G Justin Blaylock, Texas
A botched field goal attempt in the playoffs overshadowed a pretty good season by the Cowboys. Tony Romo emerged as legit quarterback and Demarcus Ware established himself as one of the league’s top pass rushing linebackers. The Cowboys were notorious for drafting defensive players in the first round under Bill Parcells and could continue to go that route under Wade Phillips. But their offensive line needs upgrading and Justin Blaylock is one of the top linemen in the class. Versatile enough to play guard or tackle, Blaylock was a key component to the 2006 Longhorns national championship team. Florida’s Reggie Nelson would immediately upgrade the secondary and could also be the pick.
23. Chiefs- CB Chris Houston, Arkansas
The Chiefs have had the same two weaknesses since Priest Holmes was running around Arrowhead Stadium: wide receiver and defense. They have focused on improving that defense during the draft, and it has provided them with some good young players. Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali have made impacts in the front seven, so the Chiefs can now turn their attention to the secondary. Arkansas’ Chris Houston had a monster junior season and could play immediately in the Chiefs cover 2. Wideout could be the other choice with tons of options like Ted Ginn, Dwayne Jarrett, and Dwayne Bowe.
24. Patriots- S Reggie Nelson, Florida
After blowing a multiple touchdown lead in the AFC Championship, the Pats decided to go hog wild in free agency. AdaliusThomas, one of the most versatile players in football, was brought in to help the defense and Wes Welker and Donte Stallworth were added to a receiving corps that struggled to gain a repore last season with Tom Brady. One area that has been a problem the last two seasons has been the secondary. Reggie Nelson, a dude I’m really high on and think should go much earlier than this, would immediately upgrade the safety position and is the type of ballhawker New England seems to covet.
25. Jets- CB Marcus McCauley, Fresno State
There was a lot for Jets fans to be happy about in 2006. Head Coach Eric Mangini led his troops to a 10-6 record and a playoff appearance in his first season on the job. Their two first round draft picks, D’Brickshaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold, steadily improved through the year and were able to keep Chad Pennington up right for the majority of the season. Already this offseason the Jets got my guy Thomas Jones for only an exchange of second round picks with the Bears, and now should look to focus on their defense. Because they run a 3-4, linebackers will always be an option but New York could also look to improve its secondary. Had he come out after his junior year, Marcus McCauley could have been a top 10 selection (in maybe the best draft of the last 20 years). But McCauley stayed in school and saw his stock drop a little. Maybe considered a boom or bust defensive back, McCauley has the playmaking ability the Jets defense desperately need.
26. Eagles- WR Ted Ginn Jr., Ohio State
The story of the Eagles 2006 season is one of two halves: the first half with Donavan McNabb and the second half with Jeff Garcia. Garcia rallied the Eagles to a playoff birth after McNabb went down, in large part because of the coaching staff’s decision to run the ball more with Brian Westbrook. With Garcia moving on to Tampa Bay this season, Philadephia might look to supply McNabb with some more offensive weapons, and Ted Ginn Jr. would be a great addition if he were somehow still around with the 26 pick in the first round. Ginn is the fastest of stellar wide receiver class, as he was Troy Smith’s favorite target the past two seasons. If Ginn is gone, the Eagles could add another wideout or look for help at safety or linebacker.
27. Saints- WR Dwayne Bowe, LSU
The Dallas Cowboys loaned the Saints their nickname last season, as New Orleans became America’s team. The offense showed immense improvement in the first year of the Sean Payton/Drew Brees Era, and rookies like Marques Colston and Reggie Bush made immediate impacts. The Saints defense was considered a weakness going into the season, but their defensive line and linebackers overachieved, getting the team to the NFC Championship game. Still for a team that won 12 games, the Saints have plenty of weaknesses. They could use a cornerback or linebacker, and now may need a wide receiver after losing Joe Horn. Dwayne Bowe is one of the best wideouts in a very good class of receivers, and would team up with Colston and Devery Henderson to make the Saints offensive attack even more potent.
28. Patriots- LB Lawrence Timmons, Florida State
With their second of two first round picks, the Patriots could look up upgrade in a number of different areas. If a wide receiver like Jarrett, Meachem, or Bowe was available, their talent and value might be too good to pass up, even after the team added Daunte Stallworth and Wes Welker in free agency. But teams that run the 3-4 always need linebackers, and Florida State’s Lawrence Timmons would be an ideal fit as a rush linebacker. Timmons could have gone much earlier than this, and still might, but his post-season workouts have been underwhelming so far.
29. Ravens- WR Robert Meachem, Tennessee
The Ravens finally found stability at quarterback last season as veteran Steve McNair played in all 16 games. They added Willis McGahee in the offseason to refresh the running game, and now may look to give McNair more targets. Robert Meachem is quickly rising up draft boards and could be the second receiver selected. He has good speed and was productive during his three seasons at Tennessee. Another option could be an offensive lineman like Central Michigan tackle Joe Staley or USC center Ryan Kahil.
30. Chargers- S Michael Griffin, Texas
Led by a historically great season from LaDanian Tomlinson, the Chargers dominated the regular season finishing with the NFL’s best record, 14-2. It didn’t help them in the playoffs, however, as they fell to a veteran New England Patriots team in the conference semi finals. They could use a receiver but may use their first pick to fill needs in the secondary. Michael Griffin in a terrific football player from a program that has a history of producing solid defensive backs. While not the prospect his former teammate Michael Huff was, Griffin should make an immediate impact on whatever team he goes to.
31. Bears- G Aaron Sears, Tennessee
It’s a been a rough offseason for the Bears, as they lost their starting running back and now may lose two time Pro Bowl linebacker Lance Briggs. If Briggs departs, the Bears may use this pick on a linebacker if someone like Paul Posluszny is available. If not, they should look to bring youth to their offense line, where Ruben Brown and Fred Miller are both coming near the end of their careers. Tennessee’s Aaron Sears would be an ideal fit because he can play both tackle and guard, and would provide the Bears offensive line with some much needed depth. (Much more on this pick in the future.)
32. Colts- LB Rufus Alexander, Oklahoma
The Colts defense may have stepped up in the playoffs, but their regular season rankings were amongst the worst in the NFL. Having trouble stopping the run the entire season, the Colts should use most of their draft picks to focus on their front seven. Oklahoma’s Rufus Alexander would be an ideal fit in Indianapolis’ cover 2, and could contribute right away. Reminding many of Ernie Sims, Alexander plays bigger than his small frame.