Friday April 17th, 2009

Some headline-material draft nuggets as we count down inside of 10 days until the NFL's annual pick-fest:

*Far and wide it's being suggested that the Detroit Lions have locked in on Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford as the No. 1 overall pick, but I believe that's overstating the case. There's still some divergence of opinion among Detroit Lions decision-makers on the wisdom of taking the somewhat inconsistent Stafford at No. 1, but for the first time this draft season, I'm hearing from league sources who say Detroit, in all likelihood, will select Stafford over Baylor offensive tackle Jason Smith and Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry.

To be clear, the decision to go with Stafford is no slam dunk. Pre-draft contract negotiations could still impact the pick significantly, and there are those within the Lions front office who are understandably worried about taking another "savior" at quarterback after the
Joey Harrington error/era. Then again, committing $40 million in guarantees in a bad economy would make anyone a little queasy.

While sources tell me that Stafford is the Lions' top choice, it seems pretty clear that they're definitely not going ga-ga over the guy. Different people like him to different degrees within the organization. It would make me a bit nervous if I were a Detroit fan, because given what's at stake at the very top of the draft these days, you really should be head over heels in love with your guy at No. 1.

* Teams have a real decision to make in regards to Florida receiver Percy Harvin. First, there's the whole Florida receiver/draft bust thing. Second, while no one at the NFL team level seems to yet have the results of the drug testing that took place at February's scouting combine, I've been told by one club official that Harvin has admitted he smoked pot as recently as January. If there's a prospect whose draft slot has a high degree of volatility that could result in him possibly slipping from the middle to the bottom of the first round, it's the ex-Gator.

* We all love first-round trades, and I agree with the assessment of NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock on the factors that could influence them this year: Teams trying to move up to take the second or third highest rated quarterbacks (probably USC's Mark Sanchez and Kansas State's Josh Freeman); teams eager to land the round's fourth-best offensive tackle (probably Ole Miss's Michael Oher) after the top three are gone in the first eight or so picks; and teams motivated by scenarios in which top-five players such as Michael Crabtree or Aaron Curry linger to the No. 7, No. 8 or No. 9 range.

* I've said it before, but it bears repeating: If Stafford doesn't wind up being the Lions' choice at No. 1, don't be shocked if Sanchez goes before him, to teams like No. 4 Seattle, No. 8 Jacksonville or No. 10 San Francisco. There are a number of clubs that have the ex-Trojan higher on their boards than the ex-Bulldog. (Send comments to siwriters@simail.com.)

 
1QBMatthew StaffordGeorgiaJr.6-3228
Throughout my previous five mocks, I've resisted giving Stafford to the Lions because quarterback isn't the position I thought new head coach Jim Schwartz would prioritize in the draft as he begins to rebuild his winless club. But going with Stafford over Jason Smith or Aaron Curry may come down to this for the Lions: Quarterback is really the only position that has enough value to even vaguely justify the kind of money the No. 1 pick now commands.
2OTJason SmithBaylorSr.6-5305
Though a receiver like Crabtree or Jeremy Maclin might be tempting, the Rams won't out-think themselves. They need an offensive tackle, and Smith is one of the consensus top two available. The pick could easily be Virginia offensive tackle Eugene Monroe, because there seems to be a real tug-of-war going on within the Rams organization between factions who like Smith and those who like Monroe.
3OTEugene MonroeVirginiaJr.6-6315
How Scott Pioli will handle his first draft on his own, without his longtime partner in personnel decision-making, Bill Belichick? I've moved off Curry to the Chiefs because some have doubts whether he fits as well in the 3-4 formation as he does in a 4-3. Monroe and his ex-Cavs teammate, Branden Albert, will give the Chiefs bookend tackles to protect quarterback Matt Cassel for years to come.
4QBMark SanchezUSCJr.6-3225
I like the Seahawks being willing to take the bold move of drafting Matt Hasselbeck's eventual replacement. Better to do it a year too soon, when you have a No. 4 overall pick, than a year too late. It's a great spot for Sanchez, who's a junior and can use a year or two of tutoring from Hasselbeck, just as Hasselbeck once learned from Brett Favre and Trent Dilfer.
5WRMichael CrabtreeTexas TechSo.6-3214
The Browns have grown increasingly infatuated with Crabtree's potential to be a game-changer, and given they're shopping Braylon Edwards via trade, the pick obviously could fill a need. But with Curry and Boston College defensive tackle B.J. Raji still on the board, the Browns are probably pretty well torn over their offense versus defense conundrum.
6OTAndre SmithAlabamaJr.6-4330
The big surprise here is that Curry officially has slid out of the top six. The Bengals' need for an offensive tackle means they're willing to roll the dice with Smith and give him the time to address some of his immaturity issues. Some sources say Marvin Lewis will jump all over Raji if he's still there, but the need to better protect Carson Palmer and get the Bengals passing game back on track wins out.
7WRJeremy MaclinMissouriSo.6-1200
Since when has Al Davis been able to resist speed? Maclin should be a nice fit for the very big arm of JaMarcus Russell. If the Raiders choose to address their anemic pass rush, Texas defensive end Brian Orakpo would likely get the nod.
8OLBAaron CurryWake ForestSr.6-3247
Linebacker isn't all that high on the Jags' need list, and thus Raji could easily be the Jaguars' pick as well. But Curry has too much going for him to last much past this draft slot, and he'd upgrade Jacksonville's linebacking instantly. The Jags once hoped to auction off this spot to a team interested in Sanchez or Stafford, but that ain't happening.
9DTB.J. RajiBoston CollegeSr.6-1323
The Packers would be thrilled to see the draft's top-rated defensive tackle sitting there waiting for them. He's the only prospect both big and stout enough to handle the nose tackle role in a 3-4 formation, and athletic enough to still generate some backfield penetration.
10DE/LBBrian OrakpoTexasSr.6-4260
His one-play-to-the-next inconsistency troubles some teams, but Orakpo's potential to create havoc as an outside linebacker/edge rusher in the 49ers' 3-4 defense makes him part of the discussion at No. 10. If San Francisco opts to fill its need at right offensive tackle, Mississippi's Michael Oher would likely get the nod.
 

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