Michael's 2009 NFL Mock Draft

Updated: 12 April 2009

Due to the groundbreaking trade of quarterback Jay Cutler from the Denver Broncos to the Chicago Bears, the completion of all college Pro Days, and recent positive drug tests of top prospects, I felt the need to update my projections for the first-round of the upcoming NFL draft. Alongside every pick this time though will be a few new additions:

Legend:

1.) My original projection

2.) My current projection

3.) Whom I would pick. This differs from number two in that with the second category, I am projecting based on whom I think that team will pick. The third category is whom I personally think is best for that particular team.

Award Winning 2009 Mock NFL Draft

1. Detroit

Original: Jason Smith—OT, Baylor

Current: Matthew Stafford—QB, Georgia

My pick: Jason Smith—OT, Baylor

Believe it or not, I believe the Cutler trade does affect the Detroit Lions at number one. The reasoning is that, now that the Denver Broncos could in theory be in the market for a quarterback with either of their first-round picks (or packaging them to move up into the top-five), every team looking for a quarterback after them feels, at minimum, a desire to get ahead of the Broncos. Now, as I originally wrote, I do not think this draft holds a quarterback worthy to be picked in the top-five to ten selections. However, the Lions will feel the backend pressure of other teams clamoring to move up for Southern California’s Matt Sanchez (considered the second best quarterback in this draft) and, in turn, recognize that there is a good chance that the third-best quarterback, Kansas’ Josh Freeman, could very well be off the board when they pick again at number twenty. Perhaps Stafford turns into a great professional, justifying whatever ridiculous contract he receives—but I do not see it likely.

2. St Louis

Original: Michael Crabtree—WR, Texas Tech

Current: Jason Smith—OT, Baylor

My pick: Jason Smith—OT, Baylor

The Rams are in desperate need at wide receiver and I believe that Crabtree has the potential to develop into a Larry Fitzgerald-type of game breaker. However, the Rams are also perilously thin at tackle as well. The decision to move Alex Barron to left tackle, a questionable decision at best considering his underachievement at right tackle, can be rectified by selecting the athletic Smith.

3. Kansas City

Original: B.J. Raji, NT—Boston College

Current: Eugene Monroe, OT—Virginia

My pick: Eugene Monroe, OT—Virginia

B.J. Raji begins his slide due to testing positive for marijuana (a report his agent is vehemently denying). Muck like I said previously, Monroe is also a justification pick but instead of justifying moving Glenn Dorsey from 4-3 under tackle (a position he was built for) to a 3-4 end, Monroe’s selection justifies both trading for quarterback Matt Cassel but also the other first-round selection last year for Branden Albert. Albert could be a very excellent fit long-term at the left tackle spot but he would be an All-Pro guard guaranteed, where he excelled in college—next to Monroe, his old teammate. Selecting Monroe ensures Cassel the time he will need to drop back, giving him one of the best blind side protections in the NFL.

4. Seattle

Original: Aaron Curry, LB—Wake Forest

Current: Aaron Curry, LB—Wake Forest

My pick: Michael Crabtree, WR—Texas Tech

I just do not see Seattle being able to pass on the most well rounded player in this draft at the fourth overall selection. However, I think Crabtree is tailor-made for the West Coast offense and would give Matt Hasselback three excellent targets at wide receiver in Crabtree, recent free-agent addition T.J. Houshmandzadeh (rumor has it Microsoft’s next version of spell checker within Word will recognize his name if he has a 1,000 yard and ten-plus touchdown season his first-year in Seattle), and Deion Branch.

5. Cleveland

Original: Brian Orakpo, LB—Texas

Current: Brian Orakpo, LB—Texas

My pick: Brian Orakpo, LB—Texas

People in Cleveland will rave about having this guy come off the edge in their 3-4 defense. Orakpo is not only an amazing athlete who tests through the roof, he brings an intensity to his play that separates the great pass rushers from the good rushers. Of all the athletic metrics that can be used for a pass-rusher, I believe the most important is the 10-yard time. Why everyone raves about forty-yard dash times, at any position, I do not understand. Rarely ever does a football player need to run forty-yards, particularly a linebacker. What matters most at most positions is lateral agility and the initial takeoff time a player has (i.e. a better measure of “playing speed” and burst/explosiveness). Orakpo shots off the first ten yards like a rocket, coming in at 1.53 seconds—a number that will translate into a lot of flattened quarterbacks over the next 10-12 years.

6. Cincinnati

Original: Eugene Monroe, OT—Virginia

Current: Andre Smith, OT—Alabama

My pick: Andre Smith, OT—Alabama

A true boom-or-bust pick based on his work ethic. If he applies himself, Smith could easily become a dominant right tackle, particularly with regards to run blocking and could even become an above average left tackle. Again, Carson Palmer needs to be protected and Smith is the best prospect left on the board to provide him that comfort.

7. Oakland

Original: Michael Oher, OT—Mississippi

Current: Darius Heyward-Bey, WR—Maryland

My pick: either Andre Smith or Michael Oher (whichever tackle is left on the board)

To think…I actually believed for a little while that Al Davis would be sensical and choose to keep his $61 million investment at quarterback (JaMarcus Russell) upright. Apparently, the overwhelming hope on the air from government bailouts, rising gas demand in India and China, and Robert Downey Jr. losing enough weight to play a comic-book action figure all went to my brain…However, the rational side of me has returned to realize that, if given enough time, Al Davis always picks the fastest guy and gives him way more money than his performance would dictate. Enter Bey, a true burner who just is not consistent enough to warrant picking here—but, again, this is about who I think will get picked, not who should.

8. Jacksonville

Original: Malcolm Jenkins, CB—Ohio State

Current: Michael Crabtree, WR—Texas Tech

My pick: Michael Crabtree, WR—Texas Tech

Contrary to growing popular opinion, David Garrard is not washed up at quarterback. Far from as last year, the lack of weapons at receiver combined with injuries to the interior of the Jacksonville line wreaked havoc on his performance. Selecting Crabtree will go a long-way towards giving Garrard the tools he need to justify Jacksonville’s contract that they gave him last off-season.

9. Green Bay

Original: Tyson Jackson, DE—LSU

Current: B.J. Raji, NT—Boston College

My pick: B.J. Raji, NT—Boston College

I am far from a moral relativist but a college kid testing positive for marijuana is akin to a Kennedy having an affair—not admirable but pretty predictable. With that said, Ted Thompson may be tempted to trade down here but I think even he will recognize the rarity of a potentially dominant zero-technique nose tackle as Green Bay desperately needs bodies along their new three-man front. A huge problem for Green Bay last year with four lineman was keeping opposing lineman off of their linebackers. Raji can help prevent those second-level blocks by tying up multiple men upfront.

10. San Francisco

Original: Everette Brown, LB—Florida State

Current: Everette Brown, LB—Florida State

My pick: Everette Brown, LB—Florida State

My comments from before stand; the 49ers desperately need to upgrade their pass rush off of the edge and Brown gives them the second-best prospect at rush linebacker after Orakpo.

11. Buffalo

Original: Brian Cushing, LB—Southern California

Current: Aaron Maybin, LB/DE—Penn State

My pick: Aaron Maybin, LB/DE—Penn State

Admittedly, Maybin is a weird fit for the Bills. Buffalo does need to upgrade its pass rush but Maybin probably fits best in a 3-4 front. However, talent is talent and talent that can get to the quarterback is very valued. As per the previous mock, at minimum, Maybin comes in on third-down to give the Bills a true up-the-field pass-rushing threat.

12. Denver

Original: Matthew Stafford, QB—Georgia

Current: Mark Sanchez, QB—Southern California

My pick: trade down or select Tyson Jackson, DE—LSU

Despite what he is saying, or perhaps even in addition to it (it is not necessarily an either/or situation), new Denver coach Josh McDaniels cannot see Kyle Orton as a long-term solution at quarterback. Beyond that, Sanchez fits the mold of a McDaniels disciple in that he has excellent footwork, quick release, accuracy and gym rat mindset that McDaniels is drawn to in a quarterback (partly why the deal with Chicago went down, as he saw those traits more in Chicago’s Orton than Tampa Bay’s Luke McCown or Washington’s Jason Campbell, also dangled in the Jay Cutler sweepstakes). Lastly, Sanchez gives Orton healthy competition at the position while having the luxury to be brought along slowly. While I am not high on either Stafford or Sanchez, I do believe Sanchez actually possess’ better long-term potential for NFL success. However, his lack of experience is glaring. Again, if I were in Denver’s shoes, I would use the Cutler boon of picks to build their defense or (more likely with me) take advantage of other teams buying the bluff and let someone else take a shot on Sanchez—and use one of their two first-round picks in 2010, a much better quarterback draft, on a signal-caller next year.

13. Washington

Original: Peria Jerry, DT—Mississippi

Current: Michael Oher, OT—Mississippi

My pick: Michael Oher, OT—Mississippi

Maybe because I am an offensive buff and read Michael Lewis’ The Blind Side that I want Oher to go here. Maybe because I root for hard-working guys who have had to overcome a lot that I want Oher to go here…but this isn’t a Disney movie. I change my pick due to Vinny Cerato’s aversion to drafting defensive lineman high and realizing that his offensive line is aging and that Oher helps make Campbell a better quarterback and Clinton Portis a better running back.

14. New Orleans

Original: Clay Matthews, LB—Southern California

Current: Chris Wells, RB—Ohio State

My pick: Malcolm Jenkins, CB—Ohio State

I tend to defy the conventional mock draft momentum with my picks, partially due to my desire to be unique. However, I think the retirement of Deuce McAllister will have the Saints think that they need to spend a high first-round pick on a running back who can fill a similar thunder running back role to Reggie Bush’s lightning. The reason I like Jenkins is his versatility, being able to be an above-average zone cornerback or an even better free safety potentially. The Saints are getting closer to being a championship caliber team and I believe it is their defense holding them back most.

15. Houston

Original: Aaron Maybin, DE/LB—Penn State

Current: Brian Cushing, LB—Southern California

My pick: Brian Cushing, LB—Southern California

Of all the positive drug test results, I see Cushing being least affected in his draft slot. The versatility he offers to Houston will give their front options and linebacker is the weakest spot on this defense. A part of me could see them going defensive tackle here but that would be an awful lot of first-round picks since 2005 spent on the defensive line if they went that route here.

16. San Diego

Original: Andre Smith, OT—Alabama

Current: Ray Maualaga, LB—Southern California

My pick: any of the top offensive tackles or Maualaga

San Diego does need an upgrade across from Marcus McNeill. However, if none of the upper-tier offensive tackles are not available, I do not see them reaching at number sixteen for the spot. Despite adding Kevin Burnett, the Chargers are thin at inside linebacker and Maualaga gives them a throwback inside, capable of stuffing the tackle-to-tackle runs a 3-4 inside linebacker must be able to do.

17. N.Y. Jets

Original: Mark Sanchez, QB—Southern California

Current: Jeremy Maclin, WR—Missouri

My pick: Jeremy Maclin, WR—Missouri

Despite popular opinion, I believe Kellen Clemens needs more of an opportunity to show what he has at quarterback for the Jets. The trade last year for the aging, prima donna that was Brett Favre was dumb on a lot of levels, namely a.) handing the Dolphins the ultra-efficient Chad Pennington due to cap costs forcing Pennington’s exit b.) renting an over-the-hill quarterback for one year, MAYBE two and 3.) delaying the development of Clemens. Granted, I do not think Clemens is going to make Tom Brady sweat in a competition for the best quarterback in the AFC East title just yet. However, Clemens has ability and needs weapons. The Jets are on their way offensively and acquiring Maclin at seventeen would be a steal.

18. Denver (from Chicago)

Original: (for Chicago) Jeremy Maclin, WR—Missouri

Current: Tyson Jackson, DE—LSU

My pick: Clay Matthews, LB—Southern California

Again, I think the Broncos need to focus on defense in this draft. Historically, defenses tend to take a bit longer to build through the draft than offenses. In that, again, I view the picks acquired in the Cutler trade needing to be viewed as building blocks; set the stage for a good defense in 2010 or 2011 and add a quarterback as the last piece to the puzzle in 2010 (with one of the two first-round picks they will have or packaging them to move up for a player like Colt McCoy of Texas). Either way, the Broncos will go defense with this pick, be it Jackson, a prototype five-technique end, or Matthews, who, with my earlier pick of Jackson, would begin to give the Broncos the horses to make the 3-4 run (pun intended).

19. Tampa Bay

Original: Darius Hayward-Bey, WR—Maryland

Current: Kenny Britt, WR—Rutgers

My pick: Hakeem Nicks, WR—North Carolina

With Bey gone, Britt is the selection as he is rocketing up draft boards with his strong postseason workouts. Indeed, he does possess very unique talents and could become a great player. However, I believe Nicks is one of the rare receivers who can come in and make an impact right away, much like a Dwayne Bowe in 2007; a player not overly highly rated but possess’ a skill-set that translates well to immediate success in the NFL.

20. Detroit (from Dallas)

Original: Brandon Pettigrew, TE—Oklahoma

Current: Peria Jerry, DT—Mississippi

My pick: Josh Freeman, QB—Kansas

With the trade of Cory Redding, the Lions got a talented but aging linebacker in Julian Peterson and a lot thinner on the defensive line. Jim Schwartz is a defensive guru and I predict that, after picking Stafford, he will go defense with his next first-round pick and use his second-round pick on an offensive tackle in a fairly deep offensive tackle draft. I think Jerry would be a good fit here but Freeman intrigues me as I see a lot of Ben Roethlisberger in him. Selecting a quarterback down here at twenty, at minimum, is a much smarter bet than rolling the dice at the top of the draft with either Stafford or Sanchez. At minimum, if Detroit insists on a quarterback first, they can slide back at least three spots (with either a trade or simply choosing to let the clock expire on their pick and then reenter the draft later) and take the same player at a significantly reduced cost. Yes folks, you read it here first; I openly advocate, barring an inability to trade down, Detroit pulling a Minnesota circa 2003 and purposefully letting time expire on the pick. I almost want to see this happen, just for the precedent it would set.

21. Philadelphia

Original: Knowshon Moreno, RB—Georgia

Current: Knowshon Moreno, RB—Georgia

My pick: Knowshon Moreno, RB—Georgia

Again, simply too good of a fit; the best all-around back in the draft going to a team that could definitely afford to lighten the load on its franchise running back in Brian Westbrook.

22. Minnesota

Original: Hakeem Nicks, WR—North Carolina

Current: Eben Britton, OT—Arizona

My pick: Hakeem Nicks, WR—North Carolina

Minnesota lost in their pursuit of Houshmandzadeh but I see them going more for need than value with their first-round pick. Britton would be a bit of an early selection at twenty-two but Ryan Cook needs to be either replaced or allowed to move inside to his more natural center position.

23. New England

Original: Ray Maualaga, LB—Southern California

Current: Vontae Davis, CB—Illinois

My pick: Vontae Davis, CB--Illinois

Maualaga would be an ideal fit in New England but I do not see him being on the board any longer at twenty-four. Normally, the Patriots are all about trading down and acquiring additional picks but, due to the storehouse full of second-round picks that they now have (three total), I could see them trading up to pick up either Everette Brown or Aaron Maybin. If I were Denver, I would be calling Bill Belichick and the crew in Foxboro. Even if linebacker, the most pressing area of defensive need, cannot be upgraded, Davis possess’ phenomenal physical skills and if any coaching staff could coax that potential into consistent performance, it is that of New England’s.

24. Atlanta

Original: Ron Brace, DT—Boston College

Current: Brandon Pettigrew, TE—Oklahoma

My pick: Brandon Pettigrew, TE—Oklahoma

DraftDog’s creator, Robert Bryant, made a public pooh-pooing of my initial pick for my team, the Falcons, referring to Brace as a “major reach.” To keep my job, I am changing my pick to Pettigrew. No, seriously, I do see Pettigrew being a great fit in Atlanta. In addition to being a physical in-line blocker that fits their run-heavy offense, he gives Matt Ryan another weapon to work the middle of the field more. Atlanta would be wise to lighten the load this next year on Michael Turner, with a two-fold combo of using Jerious Norwood more (Atlanta coaching staff, for God’s sake, please listen to the cries of Michael Schuttke as well as that of the entire staff at Football Outsiders who have campaigned for this guy for a few years) and throwing more. Despite their many defensive needs, Pettigrew is too good of a value to pass up here.

25. Miami

Original: Vontae Davis, CB--Illinois

Current: Alphonso Smith, CB—Wake Forest

My pick: Alphonso Smith, CB—Wake Forest

I predict that Smith is going to go to either New England (assuming they stay at number twenty-three), Miami here, or Baltimore. For this mock, I will project him here. The more traditional 3-4 that the Dolphins employ has both cornerbacks playing cover-two a lot more than most schemes. As such, size is highly valued in the system which Smith does not have an abundance of at 5’9”. However, he plays bigger than his size would indicate and is actually my second favorite corner in this draft after Jenkins and if Smith were two inches taller, he would be the better prospect; the only thing he really lacks is elite speed (as defined by the forty-yard dash) and can be overaggressive in his reads and decisions at times.

26. Baltimore

Original: Alphonso Smith, CB—Wake Forest

Current: Clint Sintim, LB—Virginia

My pick: Clint Sintim, LB—Virginia

Sintim has a lot of experience playing in a 3-4 defense coming from under Al Groh at Virginia. After Chris Long left last season, Sintim stepped up nicely and showed he can inspire a defense. With Ray Lewis nearing the twilight of his brilliant career, the Ravens will take the best linebacker for their scheme in Sintim, who also can help to fill the leadership void when Lewis finally does call it quits. Sintim provides tremendous value at this spot is one of those players I think is going to outperform his draft slot. He has a combination of excellent productivity and physical skills to not do well.

27. Indianapolis

Original: Evander Hood, DT—Missouri

Current: Evander Hood, DT—Missouri

My pick: Evander Hood, DT—Missouri

Again, I see Hood being a great scheme fit for Indianapolis, a place he brings a bit of size to that the Colts are not accustomed to having inside but also will get to work in a scheme that plays to his strengths of slanting up field.

28. Philadelphia

Original: Jamon Meredith, OT—South Carolina

Current: Jamon Meredith, OT—South Carolina

My pick: Jamon Meredith, OT—South Carolina

If any team may package their two low first-round picks to move into the top-five of the draft, it might be Philadelphia. The Eagles, more than anything else, need an offensive tackle. While Meredith would be a great schematic fit, I think Eugene Monroe would be the ultimate best fit for Philadelphia. If that does not happen, than Meredith will be their pick.

29. N.Y. Giants

Original: James Laurinatis, LB—Ohio State

Current: Hakeem Nicks, WR—North Carolina

My Pick: Hakeem Nicks, WR—North Carolina

The Giants are in a great spot here. Rumors are abounding that Braylon Edwards wants to leave Cleveland and there still is the chance that the Cardinals will depart with their other great wideout, Anquan Boldin. Either would be a great fit in New York for Eli Manning to be throwing to, as both are physical and good leapers (a la the departed Plaxico Burress). Even if they keep the pick, Nicks should be on the board and will be a great consolation prize. Better still from a value standpoint would be Laurinatis, another guy who does not grade high on athletics but simply makes plays.

30. Tennessee

Original: Robert Ayers, DE—Tennessee

Current: Robert Ayers, DE—Tennessee

My Pick: Robert Ayers, DE—Tennessee

For all the same reasons as before, Ayers provides great versatility for the Titans upfront and helps to lessen the loss of Albert Haynesworth.

31. Arizona

Original: Donald Brown, RB—Connecticut

Current: Larry English, LB—Northern Illinois

My Pick: Donald Brown, RB—Connecticut

The reason for the change is that Arizona will more likely go the route of perceived need over value and pick English. Arizona does need an outside linebacker, I predict that English will be a bust as a 3-4 rush linebacker. He simply lacks the necessary explosion to make a significant impact as a pass rusher. Brown would be a much better overall pick, both from a value standpoint but also need as Edgerrin James is likely to depart in the not too distant future.

32. Pittsburgh

Original: Alex Mack, C—California

Current: Alex Mack, C—California

My Pick: Alex Mack, C—California

Again, it is rare to see a center go in the first-round but Mack has that kind of talent. I really do not understand why those in the Pittsburgh organization were so elated to retain most of their offensive line; I view the success Pittsburgh had last year as being more in spite of their offensive line than because of it. Mack though will provide an instant upgrade and a career-long starter at the position.

While offensive tackle is a huge need for the Steelers, so is center and Mack is the rare center worthy of a first-round selection. Sean Mahan or Justin Harwig have not been consistent enough to warrant keeping as the default options in the middle of the line. More than any position on the line, center is the most undervalued spot but Mack could very quickly come in and not only start but be a Pro Bowl caliber player after a few years.

By Michael Schuttke