The pendulum seems to be swinging back toward Merling, whose recent surgery for a sport hernia made some teams think twice about him. The Redskins need a defensive end who can create some havoc, and his track record is solid on that front. If the Redskins go receiver, Hardy is likely the best remaining choice.
The Steelers offensive line requires attention, and Cherilus is the only first-round lineman remaining. Pittsburgh would have loved to see Virginia's Albert linger long enough to reach them, but if that ever had a chance of happening, it's long gone now.
With Thomas and Sweed both gone, I don't think the Titans are going to like their receiving choices (Jackson or Hardy) at No. 24. So we're giving them Mayo, the ex-Vol who can fill a need for Tennessee at outside linebacker.
This seems to be around the slot Balmer is expected to go, and with the Seahawks having lost veteran tackles Chuck Darby and Ellis Wyms this offseason, Seattle has an obvious need. Balmer had an inconsistent collegiate career, but he's the consensus third-ranked DT behind Dorsey and Ellis. Purdue tight end Dustin Keller is another strong first-round option for Seattle.
Some have the Jaguars rolling the dice on Miami junior Calais Campbell, who wasn't all that impressive for the Hurricanes in 2007. But Jackson was a proven pass-rusher for the Trojans and while his upside may not be as high as Campbell's, his downside isn't as steep either.
Stewart would provide San Diego a replacement for the departed Michael Turner, and given the health issues that starter LaDainian Tomlinson had in the playoffs, the Chargers are wise to be cognizant of their need in the backfield. But it speaks to how stacked San Diego is that it can devote a first-round pick to the backup running back position.
Having gotten their running back in Felix Jones at No. 22, the Cowboys land their impact receiver in Jackson at No. 28. Though he's slight of build, the 169-pound ex-Cal star has game-changing speed as both a slot receiver and in the return game. His punt return skills will have even more value if the Cowboys can't land Pacman Jones via trade.
The 49ers will look at receiving options with this pick, but they're not likely to have anyone rated higher overall than Connor, who could play at inside linebacker in their 3-4, right next to 2007 defensive rookie of the year Patrick Willis. Indiana's Hardy and Oklahoma's Malcolm Kelly are the best available receivers.
Flowers gives them a youthful option at a position where veterans Al Harris and Charles Woodson remain productive, but are starting to age. The Packers could address their need for youth at offensive tackle by taking USC's Sam Baker, but most have him graded as a second-round choice.
With Mayo and Connor gone, the Giants can shift their focus to safety, where finding options to replace the departed Gibril Wilson is a day-one draft priority. Phillips is this year's highest-rated safety, and he's got good cover skills and athleticism.
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